Politicizing Water: Rescaling Resistance to Extractive Development in Guatemala

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2023-02-22
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Elsevier
Abstract

Many Indigenous and peasant movements denounce the expansion of extractive development as a threat to their lives, livelihoods, and territories that reinforces legacies of colonization and armed conflict. Grassroots resistances to extractive projects converge on concerns over water access and contamination. This essay draws on politically-engaged ethnographic research with Indigenous territorial defense organizations in Guatemala and political ecological perspectives on water politics to examine how the strategic politicization of water affects the scalar potential of Indigenous and peasant environmental movements. I describe how Indigenous and peasant communities, political organizations, and NGOs use water as a transfer point to demonstrate the harms of extractivist projects; pursue legal strategies; form local, regional, and national networks; and to articulate resistances across a range of industries, environmental paradigms, and geographic and ethnic divides, strengthening alliances for alternative ways of being on the land.

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Keywords
extractivist development, Indigenous ecopolitics, hydrosocial territories, scalar politics, Guatemala
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