Current Institutional Affiliation
Associate Professor, Sociology, College of William and Mary

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2007
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Sociology, University of Wisconsin / Madison
(Un-)Binding Bolivia? Negotiating with "Nature" in an Age of Neoliberal Globalization

In an era of neoliberal globalization, natural resource extraction presents an intriguing paradox. As many of today’s transnational corporations are attempting to free themselves from the constraints of place, the fact that raw materials are held within, upon, and underneath the earth’s subsoil makes firms that extract them dependent upon place. While today’s transnational manufacturing firms are able to seek out the most profitable sites of production, nature’s reproductive capacities do not give extraction firms the same luxury of choice. As a result, firms engaging in processes of resource extraction must negotiate both the biophysical constraints of the resource and the material and social context of the place in which the resource is held. This study has two primary objectives: first, to explain how, in an era of neoliberal globalization, natural resource extraction – in this case of natural gas – affects the places from which it is extracted; and second, to analyze whether and in what ways the place-based aspects of natural resource extraction challenge existing power relations between transnational firms, states, and local communities. In the proposed research, I seek to reconstruct sociological theories of development, natural resource extraction, and neoliberal globalization through an extended case study of a previously unexplored context – the extraction, sale, and distribution of a highly ‘uncooperative’ commodity found in a geographically isolated location. I will analyze the struggles by local, national, regional, and transnational actors in Bolivia to control the benefits of natural gas extraction, exploring how they have worked and are working to restructure the political, economic, material, and environmental regulations governing access to the Bolivian subsoil, the infrastructure necessary to extract, transport, and process the natural gas, and the profits obtained from the natural gas.