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Durham University

Durham Energy Institute

Past Events

Find out about some of the previous events held by Durham Energy Institute:

Contested Powers: Energy, Sovereignty and the Good Life in Latin America

3rd November 2016, 13:00 to 14:00, Room D210, Dawson Building, Dr John McNeish

Energy Resources have physical thermo-dynamic properties, but are made to possess powerful political and social properties. In this paper I consider the political claims and counter-claims that surround the harnessing of energy resources- renewable and non-renewable- in Latin America. In doing so I will not only outline the historic efforts of states and elites to harness energy resources as a source of economic wealth and as platforms for generating popular ideas of state and nation.

In addition to this established picture of the role of energy resources in the history of the region, this paper draws on recent anthropological research (focused on Bolivia and Colombia) to highlight the relationship between contrasting ideas of energy resources and popular expressions of sovereignty and development. State imaginaries of resource wealth exist in tension with diverse political ontologies and sub-altern livelihoods that express alternative ideas of past, present and future. The paper argues that this more comprehensive account can help explain why energy resources remains a controversial topic at the heart of current political debate and legal policy-formation. Indeed, as I will evidence it also provides needed explanation of the rising incidence of socio-environmental contestation in Latin America.

John-Andrew McNeish is Professor of International Environment and Development Studies at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU). McNeish is a Social Anthropologist with over 15 years of experience in consultancy, research project leadership and teaching. He is the current academic chair of NMBU´s Masters Programme in International Development Studies.

In addition to a series of publication in international peer-reviewed journals, McNeish is co-author of ten books including McNeish, Borchgrevink & Logan (Zed Books 2015) Contested Powers: The Politics of Energy and Development in Latin America and McNeish & Logan (Pluto Press 2012) Flammable Societies: Studies in the Socio-Economics of Oil and Gas. McNeish is currently a project member of the Norwegian Research Council funded Extracting Justice project studying the political and legal mechanisms used by local communities in four Andean countries to respond to the social and environmental damage caused by natural resource extraction.

With a focus on Central America, he is also a project member of the EU Horizon 2020 funded ICT4COP project focused on the role of community policing in post-conflict states. He is currently in the process of completing a monograph focused on the Political Energy of Natural Resources in Latin America (Forthcoming Berghahn Books).

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