Contested Claims over Space: Discourse and Politics Among Fishers and the Oil Industry in Mexico

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 6:00 PM
Room: F202
Oral Presentation
Liina-Maija QUIST , Department of Political and Economic Studies, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
Anja NYGREN , Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
This paper examines hybrid forms of resource governance and the involved struggles over space and subjectivity among coastal fishers, the Mexican government and the state-owned oil industry in Tabasco, Mexico. The analysis builds on the study of contested claims over rights to off-shore space in an area established as a security measure exclusively for the use of the oil industry by the Mexican government in 2003. The study is based on research material collected during intensive ethnographic fieldwork among coastal fishers, government actors and oil industry representatives in Tabasco in 2011 and 2012.

The study focuses on the “how” of hybrid mechanisms of resource governance, with particular interest in the strategic use of legal measure, corporate social responsibility programmes and political discourse in the claims over resource space. The research takes part in post-Foucauldian theorizations of space as social arena, constructed in political frictions between private capital, state, society and nature.

We argue that fish-oil governance in Mexico operates as a combination of different logics and technologies that work towards the displacement of fishers as legal subjects from politics and their subjection to ideologies of entrepreneurship. Simultaneously, the multiplication of transnational actors in the oil industry’s CSR programmes provides a new political venue for the continuance of the fishers’ subjection to clientelist arts of governance while it makes the identification of accountability and responsibility diffuse. In this context, the fishers’ resistance is constructed through individual networks and opposition to mechanisms of self-responsibilisation and through fragmented political resistance which keep the extractive politics volatile. Our study of these less visible struggles over resource redistribution and political representation seeks to provide new perspectives to the prevailing forms of environmental governance and the contestations regarding them.