Urban and Population Geography working group

The negotiation of dispossession – the case of Belo Monte hydroelectric power plant (Pará, Brazil)

  The construction of the hydroelectric power plant Belo Monte in the Xingu river basin, Brazil, represents an economic model usually labeled neo-developmentalism, which can be regarded as the Brazilian political and economical elites’ favored development model. Following the logic of “internal colonialism”, it aims at integrating sparsely populated and peripheral regions like the Amazon into national capitalism via neo-extractivist mechanisms and large-scale projects. The example of Belo Monte illustrates that the dispossession of thousands of families – mainly fisher(wo)men, resp. riverines – is not limited to the material sphere. Being forced to leave their homes in Altamira and/or on the surrounding islands, they also have to give up their way of life and their respective identities, neighborhoods, histories etc. The research project analyses these complex forms of dispossession. Based on Butler and Athanasiou (2013), dispossession is conceptualized as a relational and multidimensional process that involves the psychosocial dimension. However, those processes of dispossession are not imposed unilaterally but – in the sense of Arendts (2006[1961]) political action and Tullys (1999) agonic game – occur through diverse forms of contentious negotiation between the responsible consortium, the affected, and other involved actors. In doing so, resistance to dispossession is primarily a struggle for recognition. By analyzing those forms of negotiation, the research projected aims at a conceptual enhancement of the term dispossession which helps to understand the complexity of such large-scale projects and so called processes of development-induced displacement and resettlement.

Research Assistent: Dr. Sören Weißermel

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