The Political Ecology of Natural Gas Extraction in Southern Bolivia

  • Denise Humphreys Bebbington

Student thesis: Phd


Capital investment in natural resource extraction has fuelled an unprecedented rush to secure hydrocarbon and mining concessions and contracts throughout the Andes-Amazon-Chaco region leading to increased tensions and conflict with lowland indigenous groups residing in the areas that contain subsoil resources. This thesis explores resource extraction and conflict through an ethnography of state-society interactions over proposed hydrocarbon extraction in Bolivia. It asks, how does a "post-neoliberal state" combine commitments to indigenous people, the environment and the redistributive development of natural resource wealth, and how do social movements and other actors respond? In answering this question, the thesis examines how hydrocarbon expansion has affected the country's most important gas producing region (the Department of Tarija), indigenous GuaranĂ­ society and indigenous Weenhayek society, both in their internal relationships and in their historically uneasy negotiations with the central state. By paying particular attention to the GuaranĂ­ and Weenhayek it also asks how far a national "government of social movements" has favoured or not the concerns and political projects of indigenous groups that are generally not well represented in the social movements that undergird this new state. In this vein, this research seeks to shed light on a series of contradictions and incongruities that characterise extractive-led economies with an end to contributing to debates about the possibility of combining more socially and environmentally sound modes of production, new forms of democracy, self governance and popular participation.
Date of Award31 Dec 2010
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorDiana Mitlin (Supervisor) & Gavin Bridge (Supervisor)


  • Chaco
  • Social Movements
  • Socio-Environmental Conflict
  • Post Neoliberal
  • Extractive Industry
  • Bolivia
  • Natural Gas
  • Indigenous Peoples

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