How to Get Towards a Sustainable Future? Examining the Opportunities of Local Communities in Conflicts over Agro-Industrial Projects

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 10:45
Location: Marietta Blau Saal (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Marika GEREKE, Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany
Local communities, NGOs and other social organizations increasingly form protest movements to fight the severe ecological and social effects of agro-industrial projects. As a consequence, socio-ecological conflicts over such projects continue to rise around the globe. Nevertheless, it remains largely unclear which socio-political negotiation processes actually take place in such conflicts and, consequently, what possibilities protests movements do have to shape the outcome of these conflicts because most social science research focuses on the macro-structural aspects (e. g. population dynamics or economic growth) of conflicts over natural resources.

This paper argues that the combination of an actor-centered political ecology and approaches from social movement research is fruitful to shed light on this research gap. The integration of both theoretical traditions allows an analysis of the opportunities of often marginalized local communities in a conflictual constellation of actors which is shaped by unequal possibilities to control the social dealings with nature. The usefulness of such an approach is empirically demonstrated by the comparison of two cases of local social protests against extractive projects in Peru which ultimately successfully prevented the implementation of these potentially devastating projects.  

In order to understand the possibilities of local communities to shape their livelihoods in a sustainable and inclusive manner, the paper, hence, shows that it is necessary to consider the power relations with regard to the social control of nature.