Fighting the Discourse from Within: Epistemological Resistance to Multinational Mining in Peru
Noah Walker-Crawford (University of Manchester)
Paper short abstract:
Universalistic knowledge can be the basis of domination and a tool for resistance. Anti-mining activists in Peru appear complicit in dominant discourses when they negotiate resistance in dominant terms, but they do this to draw international resonance and propagate alternative forms of development.
Paper long abstract:
Scientific environmental and economic knowledge can be a tool of domination, but can also be appropriated to form the basis for resistance. While multinational mining companies draw on universalistic approaches to apprehend the environments they exploit in the Peruvian region of Cajamarca, local activists have resisted these efforts by drawing on some of the 'dominant' conceptions (e.g. 'sustainable development'), particularly in an effort to draw attention to their cause in the lead-up to the 2014 UN Climate Summit in Lima. Local articulations of resistance can be seen as situated knowledge practices that emerge in tension with dominant forms of knowledge within webs of power relations (cf. Haraway 1988). They seek legitimacy by drawing on dominant concepts and using them for their own ends. While it may appear that these activists become complicit in the power relations through which mining and ensuing environmental destruction are implemented, closer analysis shows that such situated knowledges can become forms of epistemological resistance that call into question the knowledge practices on which dominant relations of power rely. While their use of terms such as 'sustainable development' may give the appearance of complicity with dominant structures, activists buy into the discourses on their own terms to attain international recognition and formulate alternative models of development.
Resistance and complicity