Current Institutional Affiliation
Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, University of Chicago

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2018
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, University of Chicago
Lifeworlds of Extraction: An Ethnography of Wind Energy and Indigeneity in the Guajira

This project investigates how indigenous Wayúu communities and transnational energy corporations experience the transition from fossil fuels to wind farming in the Guajira—an arid, resource-rich, yet severely impoverished region along Colombia's Caribbean coast. Although past extractive investments (coal and oil) have left a trail of territorial dislocation and ecological degradation, wind farming is framed by investors, state actors, and engineers as a remedy for global ecological risks, an instrument for poverty alleviation, and an ethical form of resource extraction that is more compatible with Wayúu notions of value, territoriality, and well being. Despite being predicated on discourses of "clean" energy and sustainable development, for many indigenous actors the expansion of wind energy infrastructure anticipates a wave of land privatization, social conflicts, and corporate control over energy resources with limited to no local benefits. My research asks how the transition to wind farms is taking place—particularly, how it is rearranging the everyday lives of indigenous and corporate actors through their interactions; what promises and risks this more "harmonious" relation entail for both the Wayúu and extractive companies; and how notions of Wayúu identity and corporate forms of social relations are being mutually transformed and re-evaluated. By examining the emergence of wind parks, I seek to gain a deeper understanding of the social, economic, and political dimensions of energy transitions as experienced by indigenous communities and energy corporations in the Global South. To do so, I will undertake 12 months of ethnographic field research, observing existent and projected wind parks and interacting with Wayúu communities, staff members of energy corporations, and indigenous organizations protesting the expansion wind power in the Guajira. My research draws on scholarship on the politics of resource extraction, energy, and indigeneity.