UCL Anthropology


Wind at the Margins of the State: Autonomy and Renewable Energy in Southern Mexico

21 November 2013

Wind Mills

A special talk by Dominic Boyer and Cymene Howe, Department of Anthropology, Rice University

Thursday 12th December 2013 - 4.30pm
The Daryll Forde Seminar Room, UCL Anthropology, 14 Taviton Street

In Oaxaca's Isthmus of Tehuantepec state and private interests have created the densest development of wind power anywhere in the world. This talk examines how a governmentally supported, ecologically timely project, the Mareña Renovables wind park, failed in the face of unprecedented local resistance. The reasons for the park's demise involve perceptions regarding a general lack of transparency, anger at the manipulation of local authorities, and worries about growing social inequality, political polarization and violence in the region. Exploring the political and material-infrastructural challenges faced by what would have been Latin America's largest single-phase wind park, we chart a genealogy of the anti-Mareña resistance and their commitment to non-hierarchal organizational models and local ecological autonomy; we describe how the resistance critically engaged neoliberal models of development and foreign financial intervention; and finally, we consider how local opposition surfaced concerns regarding the environmental and social consequences of "megaproject"-level development. The talk argues that while transitions to renewable energy have the ethical potential to leverage a global climatological good, when they are seen to contravene local claims for rights, autonomy, environmental knowledge and ecological stewardship, such projects can generate instead, as Mareña discovered, conditions for contention and failure.