In my research I look at how (activism towards) mega projects of natural resource extraction and energy production transform practices and meanings of citizenship and democracy. The research is rooted in the observation that the properties of resources (and how they are extracted) shape the ways people organize around them and (re)negotiate their relation with the state on the one hand, and that democratic institutions inform the ways that power relations transform in the field of energy production and subsoil natural resource extraction on the other. To get grip on the ways individuals and organized groups contest and reproduce categories of in- and exclusion at this extraction-energy production/democracy-citizenship nexus, I use engaged ethnographic research methods and thematic analysis. In addition, close collaboration with civil society organizations and activists is central to my research approach. I also find it important to look for alternative ways to disseminate research findings and establishing a platform for interchange between academia and civil society organizations.
From this starting point, I have developed two main research lines. My work in Guatemala focuses on the ways indigenous peoples organize against open pit mining, with a special focus on gender. In 2010-12 I researched how community consultations against mining and how this engendered new forms of participation, which resulted in the article ‘Transformations in Citizenship’, among others. A brief comparative fieldwork trip in the Philippines resulted in several publications about micropolitics and social movements in anti-mining resistance in the Philippines, among which a comparative paper in Society and Natural Resources together with Michiel Köhne. Following up on recent developments in Guatemala, this research now focuses on how criminalization of activists involved in anti-mining resistance limits the scope and impact of their activism, and how this relates to ideas and practices of citizenship and democracy. Another important element of this research line is gender; (indigenous) women are often on the frontlines of anti-extraction activism, but their role in these processes remains understudied. This has resulted in several papers, among which an article with a former MSc student in the Forum for Interamerican Research and a Spanish chapter in the edited volume Gobierno, gobernabilidad, poder local y recursos naturales.
The second line of research focuses on citizenship and energy production in the Netherlands. Together with my SDC colleague Michiel Köhne, I looked into new forms of (local) political participation and activism in reaction to future shale gas developments in the Noordoostpolder, which resulted in, among others, an article in Energy Research and Social Sciences about how residents engaged in diverse acts of citizenship. We also have explored how such acts of citizenship are rooted in and structured by local and historical ‘belonging’ in an article, which has been published in Sociologia Ruralis. In line with a local focus on renewable energy production as an answer to future shale gas extraction, we now focus on practices and imaginations of renewable energy production as a way of renegotiating citizen-state relations. We look into how local ‘energy practices’ not only contribute to new normativities of ‘just’ energy production, but also how we can consider reclaiming and appropriating energy production as a way of transforming power relations. We explore this thematic in an article, which has been published in Energy Policy.
In both research domains, the collaboration with, and facilitating dialogue between, activists, civil society organizations, scholars, students and research participants is a key element. This has resulted in several activities with a different outlook. I have been involved in hosting the visits of several human rights and environmental activists to our group in collaboration with CATAPA (NGO working with anti-mining activists), Otherwise (NGO working with several grassroots initiatives) and Peace Brigades International. During these visits we have brought students, activists and scholars together to discuss issues on human rights and natural resources. In 2015 I organized a mixed activist-student-scholar-NGO panel on the ABv (Antropologen Beroepen vereniging – Anthropologists Professional Association) day. It also works the other way around; I find it important to share my findings in talks for a non-academic public.
Both research lines have contributed to a broader understanding of the social and political dynamics at the extraction-energy production/democracy-citizenship nexus. This has resulted in a theoretical article the ERLACS on how to understand criminalization and human rights violations in natural resource conflicts. In another theoretical paper I aim to explore the intersection of resource materialities on the one hand and democracy and resistance on the other. Parallel to these theoretical explorations, I have also written about more methodological issues related to my work. One of these methodological explorations discusses research identity as a methodological ‘tool’. In another article I explore, together with 3 co-authors, the intersections of teaching fieldwork methods and doing ethnographic research. A more personal account on the engaged character of our Noordoostpolder fieldwork, has been published in Practicing Anthropology.
The coming years I will build on the work done so far, focusing on four core themes:1) Indigenous women and environmental justice