Commoning, community, and citizenship: an analysis of Esquel’s No a la Mina, a socio-environmental movement against mining in Argentinian Patagonia

Jimenez Thomas Rodriguez, Diana (2023) Commoning, community, and citizenship: an analysis of Esquel’s No a la Mina, a socio-environmental movement against mining in Argentinian Patagonia. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

[thumbnail of Diana Jimenez Thomas Rodriquez PhD Final Version.pdf]
Download (3MB) | Preview


This thesis examines the Asamblea de Vecinos Autoconvocados por el No a la Mina de Esquel (Assembly of Self-Convened Neighbours against Mining in Esquel, also known as Esquel’s No a la Mina), a socio-environmental movement against mining in the province of Chubut in Argentinian Patagonia. The movement in Esquel emerged in November 2002 in response to the imminent commencement of the gold mining project known as Cordón Esquel and by early 2003 had succeeded in stopping the project. However, as the pressure to install mining in the province has continued and expanded since, the movement has remained active for 20 years now.

Based on a feminist qualitative methodology that combined on-site and remote research methods due to COVID-19 and a theoretical framework that brings together an anthropological perspective on citizenship and a feminist political ecology lens, this thesis examines the movement as a process of community-making – what is motivating and sustaining it over such a long period, as well as how it is impacting the way people practice citizenship. It argues that four practices (or everyday actions) of the movement are central to this question: mobilising politically as vecinos (neighbours), ‘informing’ about mining, appealing to dignity, and rethinking human-nature relations. By building place, knowledge, wellbeing, and nature as shared – that is, as commons – these practices have set in motion various processes of ‘commoning’. As these processes support the making of a community in Esquel, they are also shaping it as one that is horizontal, epistemically self-sufficient, oppositional to the state, and structured around care.

The thesis also examines how commoning is embedded in the relation between people and the state, as well as in local power relations organised around social differences. It argues that the processes of commoning at play contest the ways in which the state and private sector have tried to install mining in the province, reshaping the subjectivity, agency and rights associated with citizenship. Yet, as multiple tensions underlie these processes, they have simultaneously reproduced exclusions along axes of social difference within the emerging community.

In putting forward these arguments, this thesis contributes to our understanding of the ways in which socio-environmental movements can be productive sites not only of citizenship transformation, but also of commoning. It develops a theoretical link between commoning and citizenship – a relation which is under-theorised in existing literature – as well as further develops the theoretical links between commoning and community-making. By approaching this analysis through a concern with power – vis-à-vis the state and within Esquel – the thesis also contributes to literature on commoning and power. It shows how successfully contesting extractivism over time may require changes in the way people relate to the state, and thus shows how citizenship transformation can be crucial for environmental justice. It also shows how attentiveness to power relations shaping the process of commoning is crucial in order to create just commoning-communities.

On an empirical level, the thesis contributes to existing literature on Esquel’s No a la Mina by providing an analysis of the movement from 2003 through the end of 2021. It is also the only study to draw on the understandings and experiences of its members, and thereby provides a more complex understanding of the movement’s internal dynamics than previous studies. In doing so, this thesis also contributes to literature on socio-environmental movements in Argentina, by illuminating the challenges of coalitions between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > School of Global Development (formerly School of International Development)
Depositing User: Nicola Veasy
Date Deposited: 24 Jan 2024 13:44
Last Modified: 24 Jan 2024 13:44

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item