Elizabeth Geglia

AnthropologyAmerican University

Award Information

2016 IDRF Program

AnthropologyAmerican University

Disrupting Democracy? An Ethnography of Governance, Territoriality, and Dispossession in Honduras’s Emerging ‘Model Cities’

Special economic zones (SEZs) have proliferated with remarkable speed in the last forty years, reflecting their vital role in the process of global economic neoliberalization. Increasingly constructed as extra-state spaces, scholars have examined how such zoning technologies have transformed territories by re-scaling statehood for experimentation with new governance and economic models. This research takes an anthropological approach to the study of an emerging and aggressive form of SEZ in Honduras, legally termed the 'Economic Development and Employment Zone' (ZEDE) and popularly referred to as the 'model city.' The project looks at Honduras' dual process of de-territorialization and re-territorialization through the implementation of this new concessionary model. Following a 2009 military coup, Honduras became the site of neoliberal utopian imagineering. A complex web of actors - Silicon Valley anarcho-capitalist intellectuals, Reagan-era U.S. advisers, global investors, Honduran officials, and planners – began mobilizing various imaginaries, discourses, and political strategies to implement the ZEDE, a legally and judicially autonomous zone in which private developers assume the primary functions of the State. According to these proponents, the ZEDE is a "disruptive technology" geared towards creating a market of governance models out of the ashes of the nation-state. But how exactly is this "disruption" experienced by Honduran communities? How is ZEDE development negotiated and contested between local, national and international actors? Finally, how does the privatization of sovereignty impact land and natural resource governance in Honduras? Using qualitative methods including critical discourse analysis, observation, interviews, and oral histories, I will examine how constellations of actors engage in the "production of space" for ZEDE development by discursively, legally, and materially altering the relationships between people, politics, and land.