The topic of my research is activism against large-scale development projects that often involve the large-scale extraction of natural resources in Latin America (Guatemala), Southeast Asia (The Philippines) and Europe (The Netherlands and possibly England/Ireland in the future). Since the 1980s the number of transnational companies that have entered (often indigenous) locales with the intention of starting up large scale development projects, such as mining for gold, building hydroelectric dams and fracking for shale gas, has increased enormously. This development has everything to do with the globalization of markets and changed national legislation that makes it more attractive to companies to engage in processes of massive natural resource extraction in other countries than their own. In many cases governments have granted permits to foreign companies for exploration and/or exploitation without prior consultation of the local population. At the same time the recognition of indigenous peoples, as well as processes of decentralisation has created possibilities for (indigenous) citizens to organise themselves against such large scale development projects. My research is located at the crossroads of these developments where different actors the state, mining companies, (indigenous) activists engage in the struggle over development and the governance of natural resources.
The concerned regions are often inhabited by (indigenous) people that have traditionally been excluded from economic progress and political participation. The fact that they are excluded again - from decision making processes make them start questioning the democratic system in itself. But also in European countries citizens feel excluded and denied in their rights as citizens. Within this context, people organise themselves in action groups on local, regional, national level and claim their right to be involved in processes of decision making about development. In my research until now, I have come across two opposite reactions to activism against massive resource extraction. First, governments can go in to these claims, such as Minister Kamp when he postponed the decision about the permission to conduct exploratory drillings for shale gas. Second, governments can chose to deny protests or even supress them, as is the case in Guatemala where the government criminalizes social activism and violates fundamental human rights in doing so. As such, struggles over mega projects often comprise more than the ecological consequences of such projects. It is also if not mainly -- about who can take decisions about development; about citizenship and democratic practice. In my research I therefore not only look at how people organise themselves around such intended development projects, what the activism looks like and how people use legitimize claims, but also how this relates to experiences of in -- and exclusion in the nation-state.
The research is located at what could be called the citizenship-development nexus on the playingfield of massive extraction of natural resources. The purpose of the research is to understand how activism towards mega projects of natural resource extraction transforms practices and meanings of citizenship; how those struggles (re)produce categories of in - and exclusion.