PhD defence

Let it flow! Navigating hydropower conflicts in southern Chile

PhD candidate MADP (Maite) Hernando Arrese
Promotor JSC (Han) Wiskerke
Co-promotor dr. ED (Elisabet) Rasch
Organisation Wageningen University, Sociology of Development and Change

Mon 4 December 2023 16:00 to 17:30

Venue Omnia, building number 105
Hoge Steeg 2
6708 PH Wageningen
+31 (0) 317 - 484500
Room Auditorium


This thesis explores the persistent resistance to hydropower development in southern Chile, despite a shift from large dams to small hydropower. Through extensive research and fieldwork in Mapuche Indigenous territories, it explores how Mapuche communities and environmentalists handle the socio-environmental conflicts arising from hydropower projects. While small hydropower is globally promoted as an eco-friendly alternative, this study challenges the assumption that it has fewer social and ecological impacts due to lower capacity.

The research examines various aspects, including the political background of hydropower in Chile, the ontological significance of water in Indigenous territories, community leaders' responses to social unrest and resistance, and the political role of hope in these conflicts. It draws on multiple disciplines like science and technology studies, political ecology, ethnography, and feminist scholarship.

The study emphasizes the importance of not downplaying the consequences of hydropower development in Indigenous territories, shedding light on the intricate dynamics of resistance and development in these areas.