Working Paper No. 11 - Subsoil Mediations: Strategies of contention at the grassroots and the extraction of subsoil resources Global Change
Elisabet Dueholm Rasch – 2019
In this working paper, I argue that the ways in which communities engage in strategies of contention are mediated by what I call ‘subsoil imaginaries’: how peoples and communities imagine and give meaning to the subsoil and its extraction. In so doing, I approach the subsoil as a site on and through which strategies of contention gain form and content, and at the same time as a resource that is produced through such (political) discursive and practical activities. It is on this site that this paper explores strategies of contention as a negotiation of rights between political subjects and the state that is mediated by subsoil imaginaries. Strategies of contention are mediated by subsoil imaginations in two dimensions. First, conflicts and contestations over resource use are often rooted in different ideas and imaginaries of resource use and the subsoil. Natural resources can be valued as indigenous territory, as a part of livelihood, in terms of biodiversity, and as combinations thereof. Such meanings clash with the monetary valuations on which most extractive projects are based. Second, extractive projects cause conflicts over distribution, as well as over recognition and participation; it is not only about the environmental consequences of subsoil extraction but also (if not foremost) about power, democracy and citizenship. These claims of social justice, as I will show, are also shaped by imaginaries of the subsoil. The paper builds on research on resistance, citizenship and subsoil extraction since 2010 in Latin America, the Philippines and the Netherlands.