Genealogy of mining territories in the Atacama Desert. The nitrate/water extraction in Tarapacá District ~20°S, Northern Chile (1853-1925)

Abstract : For the last two decades, conflicts created by mining and their use of water has become an important issue for the Chilean geography. Several studies developed from Political Ecology perspective has constrained their analysis to the neoliberal period (post 1973). In this paper we follow a geo-historical standpoint, looking for a more complex understanding of the long period processes around mining and water (Worster, 1985; Swyngedouw, 2015). Trough the analysis of different official documents (local reports/decrees and national laws) and scientific discourses (historical maps, papers and travel notebooks) of the 19th and early 20th century, we have reconstituted, as Elden (2010) proposes, the genealogy of the mining territories in the Tarapacá District for the 1853-1925 period. We argue that the insertion of the Atacama Desert macro-region (Northern Chile) into the world capitalist circuits of goods (minerals) create the conditions to the modernization of these territories. The profound territorial changes of this period reconfigured the meanings and the material relations of the Tarapacá’s populations with minerals and water, just as Braun (2000) describes in Canada. In this way, discursive (scientific, political and legal) and material (investments and technology) processes transformed these "desert and unproductive" lands into a world scale mining territory. Finally, we propose that a direct consequence of modernization in Tarapacá District was the invisibilisation, in the sense of Scott (1998), of ancestral rationalities of water and conflict between their users.
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Contributor : Manuel Mendez <>
Submitted on : Wednesday, December 5, 2018 - 9:15:20 AM
Last modification on : Thursday, December 6, 2018 - 1:49:08 AM

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Manuel Méndez. Genealogy of mining territories in the Atacama Desert. The nitrate/water extraction in Tarapacá District ~20°S, Northern Chile (1853-1925). Socio-Environmental trajectories of mining territories (TRAMIN), Oct 2018, Chambéry, France. ⟨hal-01944964⟩

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