Consultation, Compensation and Conflict: Natural Gas Extraction in Weenhayek Territory, Bolivia
Abstract

This paper examines how the growing importance of natural gas production in the Bolivian Chaco has shaped the possibilities for lowland indigenous groups, such as the Weenhayek, to: a) recover ancestral lands; b) consolidate greater levels of self governance and autonomy; and c) and access flows of gas rents in order to sustain traditional ways of living. Through a focus on specific projects and processes of state-led Consultation and Participation, I explore how natural gas expansion has generated conflicts within Weenhayek society as well as between the Weenhayek, the Bolivian state and extractive industry enterprises. I argue that the tensions surrounding hydrocarbon expansion and processes of consultation must be understood in light of the particular economic calculations, territorial experiences and organizational dynamics of the Weenhayek in both historical and contemporary periods. These economic calculations are heavily marked by the logic of collection and the overriding importance of securing livelihoods - both in general but also from season to season. Tensions over hydrocarbons in Weenhayek territory must also be understood in a context in which government policies favor central political imperatives over the sub-national projects of indigenous groups.


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