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Gender and Extractivism in Plurinational States – An intersectional approach to mining in Bolivia and Ecuador

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Co-authored with Marie Jasser

Highly diverse societies in the Andes clearly display the disproportionate impact of mining activities on women. Two cases – Bolivia’s biggest tin mine (Posokoni Mountain) in the Andean mountain plateau municipality Huanuni and Ecuador’s emerging copper exploitation in the megadiverse cloud forest region of Intag – show that specific impacts on women reinforce existing inequalities along poverty, ethnicity and rural-urban divisions. In this paper, we connect modern/colonial insights and recent contributions on extractivism within the broader field of feminist political ecology. We trace how gender-sensitive power relations in both places ultimately render the co-existence of variegated forms of living and production impossible. We find that a ‘legal shielding of mining companies’ leads to the suspension of democratic and fundamental rights of populations in affected territories. The consequences of ‘dispossession by contamination’ prove to be particular severe for indigenous-peasant-popular women as these consequences thwart subsistence activities that (in combination with housework activities) are carried out mainly by women. The fact that reproduction in these territories has been rendered impossible is being contested by increasingly female-led activism. This comparative case study sheds light on the gendered and variegated dynamics of extractivism in socio-environmental settings of high diversity.

This talk is part of the Political Ecology Group meetings series.

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