Time: 13:00 - 15:30
Venue: Bergen Resource Centre for International Development, Juss II, Jekteviksbakken 31

How do different models of ownership over natural resources affect poverty levels and social conflicts in Latin America? Who stand to gain and who stand to lose from nationalizing natural resources? And what do “natural resources” really mean for different groups in society?

CMI is kicking off a new project that aims in short to study the human face of energy politics in Latin America. To mark this we are organizing a round table aimed at discussing and answering the question: Is Energy Nationalism a Problem in Latin America?

Energy resources assume a major role in political processes in Latin America, and have been widely recognized as the root causes of many of the historic and current political and civil confrontations in the region- stretching from the Chaco War, to border skirmishes between Peru and Ecuador and the deaths at Bagua, Peru last year. Whereas energy security has long been a matter of national concern and military action, over the last ten years, Latin America has seen a new wave of energy nationalism sweep throughout the region in reaction to neoliberalism’s perceived sale of resource sovereignty and failures to stimulate economic growth. In the process public funds have been reclaimed, new energy alliances defined and a new period of competition for regional hegemony amongst Latin American State started. This is perhaps best exemplified by the controversy over bio-fuels/green technologies versus the hydrocarbon economy that places a grouping of countries led by Brazil and Mexico in tension with countries supportive of the ALBA agreement.

In this panel we aim to untangle these positions and question the political and economic reasoning and value of energy nationalism in the region. We furthermore aim to discuss the internal workings of energy nationalism by demonstrating its linkages to ideas of modernization and tension with a much wider array of popular sovereignties and resource claims. These claims include campaigns over the distribution of benefits from oil and gas extraction and the role of the state in adequately representing the collective interest of national populations including the specific rights of indigenous peoples and workers. Indeed, communities, social movements, the private sector, governments and international organizations can all be seen to be wielding highly contrasting assumptions about the significance of natural resources and the terms used to manage them as sources of energy. Foundational issues of popular national sovereignty expressed by these groups furthermore overlap with global environmental concerns about energy production. It is this complex picture in its holistic entirety we see as forming the basis of a political anthropology of energy in Latin America, and the nuanced study of which we hope can generate better understanding and opportunities for peaceful resolution and sustainable development. It is also this complex map of energy nationalism we aim to further contemplate, and on which we invite open discussion in the course of this public round table.  The round table will include a series of short presentations and comments from invited project members guided by a chair, followed by an open session of questions from the wider audience.


John-Andrew McNeish, Senior Researcher, CMI, Norway

Fernanda Wanderley, Senior Researcher, Universidad Mayor de San Andres, Bolivia

Don Sawyer, Director of the Institute for Society, Population and Nature, Brasilia, Brazil

Einar Braathen, Senior Researcher, NIBR, Norway

Owen Logan, Research Fellow, University of Aberdeen, UK

Chair: Helge Ryggvik, Centre for Technology, Innovation and Culture (TIK) UiO, Norway