SURCLA Seminar | A Matter of Movement: Patagonia and Power Politics in Chile
9 October, 2012
PhD candidate, Department of Government and International Relations, The University of Sydney
The 20th of May 2011 saw one of the first massive mobilisations in Chile since protests against General Pinochet´s rule in the 1980s. More than 40,000 Chileans demonstrated on the streets of Santiago against the approval of a mega-dam complex in Chilean Patagonia. An environmental issue-based campaign gained strength and notoriety, becoming one of the starting points of society-wide demonstrations during 2011 and 2012. This paper focuses on how this techno-political controversy placed power politics at the centre of the debate, and on one of the institutional responses to it. In May 2011 the Chilean President announced the establishment of a special commission to analyse the energy sector and to set the basis for a new energy policy for the country. After realising that the appointed members of the Presidential Commission (CADE) were representatives of the main energy corporations, the business sector, and politicians that had given their public support to the dam complex in Patagonia, civil society organisations and parliamentarians participating in the “Patagonia Without Dams” campaign announced the establishment of a Parallel Commission (CCTP). Drawing on recent contestation politics literature and the insights of material semiotics, and by looking at the way the Commissions were organised, the content of their reports and their sites of public appearance and influence, this paper analyses the controversy and related environmental campaign that has made energy visible, contested and public in Chile.
Biography: Colombina Schaeffer is a sociologist from the Catholic University of Chile (PUC) and a PhD candidate in the Department of Government and International Relations, University of Sydney. Her research interests include political ecology, social movements and Latin American politics. She is currently researching the Chilean environmental movement and politics. She worked with the Chilean based NGO Programa Chile Sustentable, where she co-edited the book Conflicts over Water in Chile: Between Human Rights and Market Rules. She is a founding member and co-director of the NGO VerDeseo.
Location: Woolley Bulding S325