Local Resistances and Social Change. How Local Environmental Protests Lead To Citizens' Empowerment and Democratization

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 11:30 AM
Room: 315
Oral Presentation
Alice POMA , Social Science, UPO and EEHA-CSIC, Seville, Spain

Currently, thousands of communities and collective groups all over the world are struggling to defend their territories from devastation which leads to the construction of railway, energy and hydraulic infrastructures, only to mention a few. Both in Europe and Latin America, the complicity of the institutional left wing, engaged in the construction of infrastructures and in the limits of the transnational social movements focused on following the agenda of power rather than the problems of the local communities, has led to the emergence of thousands of autonomous experiences of struggle that arise from below.


In our article we will show that these experiences are social and political laboratories where self-organized citizens are experimenting new political practices and are also proposing new discourses, turning these resistances to defend their territory into experiences of democratization, political participation and empowerment.


Focusing on the subjective dimension of protest, we will show the role of emotions, such as place attachment, motivation to action, participation and radicalization of discourses and practices, in order to describe how the experience of resistance produces a transformation of consciousness and behavior.


We will base our analysis on an item of empirical research carried out during experiences of resistance in Spain (the struggle to defend the Riaño valley and the Grande river) and Mexico (the struggle against the reservoir of San Nicolas) all of them analyzed with techniques of qualitative research. The approach selected has been from below, in other words, centered on the experience of participants and activists of local communities.


Finally, what we intend to highlight is that these resistances are struggles for a significant democratization of territory and resource management, and eventually, of society.