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Disputing the 'National Interest': The depoliticization and repoliticization of the Belo Monte Dam, Brazil

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Article number103
Number of pages21
JournalWater
Volume11
Issue number1
Early online date9 Jan 2019
DOIs
DateAccepted/In press - 20 Dec 2018
DateE-pub ahead of print - 9 Jan 2019
DatePublished (current) - 9 Jan 2019

Abstract

The construction of a hydroelectric project transforms the watershed in which it is located, leading to a moment of contestation in which the scheme is challenged by opposition actors. This paper explores the interplay between pro- and anti-dam coalitions contesting the Belo Monte Dam in Brazil by discussing how each group inscribes the project with a particular resonance in policy. Drawing upon the work of Chantal Mouffe on agonism and Tania Murray Li on 'rendering technical', the subsequent discussion analyzes semi-structured interviews, questionnaires, and primary documents to explore how the storylines advanced by pro- and anti-dam actors contest the political character of Belo Monte. It is argued that within these storylines, Belo Monte's positioning within the 'national interest' represents a key site of the project's depoliticization and repoliticization-which are understood as the respective denial and illumination of the project's location within a wider terrain of political antagonism and conflict. Whilst pro-dam actors assert the apolitical character of the project by foregrounding it within depoliticized questions of economic benefits, anti-dam actors reground the project within a context of political corruption and the circumvention of dissent. With this paper providing evidence of how contests over dam construction are linked to the concealing and/or illumination of the project's political content, it is argued that the repoliticization of a project by a resistance movement can have consequences far beyond the immediate site of construction.

    Research areas

  • Belo Monte, Brazil, Dams, Depoliticization, Energy policy, Hydropower, National interest, Repoliticization

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    Rights statement: This is the final published version of the article (version of record). It first appeared online via MDPI at https://www.mdpi.com/2073-4441/11/1/103 . Please refer to any applicable terms of use of the publisher.

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