Dissertation Abstracts

A Rancierian Analysis of Power in Anti-mining Resistance in Guatemala

Author: Katherine W Ordonez, KWOrdonez@Gmail.com
Department: Sociology
University: University of South Africa , South Africa
Supervisor: Dr. Thomas
Year of completion: 2017
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Guatemala mining , GoldCorp , Sipacapa , Development
Areas of Research: Political Sociology , Social Movements, Collective Action and Social Change , Local-Global Relations


The resistance strategies of the indigenous people of Guatemala against mining activities in the Sipacapa no se vende (Sipacapa not for sale) and the La Puya (sharp pointed stick) movements are examined through the lens of Jacques Rancière’s theories and concepts about power and inequality, with attention to his concepts of police and politics. These concepts are used as tools to analyse the indigenous Mam people’s anti-mining protests. The anti-mining social movements of Sipacapa and La Puya rely on sustainable (since 2005 and continuing), public, single purpose (stopping the mine from operating until receiving official approval from the local indigenous community) demonstrations targeted against the mining company and its officials. The Sipacapa no se vende social movement is made up of the local Mam indigenous group living near the Marlin mine. The protesters of La Puya are local indigenous and mestizos living in San Jose del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc close to the El Tambor mine. Data sources include interviews, and content analysis of the news media, trade magazines and nongovernmental organizations (NGO) reports. Using Rancière’s concepts, the paper assesses the anti-mining movement's actions, or inaction, and discerns if the movement has had any sustained impact in achieving politics. Also, there is a contribution to the scholarly literature on power and resistance in analysing behaviour and communication as factors in determining the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of a resistance strategy. While not directly proscriptive, the study brings to light alternative approaches in leveraging power to address the ways the police order creates and maintains inequality. In evaluating the movement, the subjects speak about their efforts, failures, and successes on their own terms. Rancière’s prescription for creating politics is for resisters to achieve politics by their own agency. By having subjects speak for themselves, and through close analysis of print sources, the intent is to find any indication of the protesters achieving (or failing to achieve) a moment that reveals the false construction of inequality. The findings provide new avenues for research, in terms of identifying the tactics of the police order and how to circumvent and counter those tactics.

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