We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. By continuing to browse this repository, you give consent for essential cookies to be used. You can read more about our Privacy and Cookie Policy.

Durham e-Theses
You are in:

Friends of the Lake?
The Megacolector Conflict and the Revindication of Tz’unun Ya’

MAY, TIMOTHY,EDWARD (2021) Friends of the Lake?
The Megacolector Conflict and the Revindication of Tz’unun Ya’.
Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



There is growing recognition that radical ontological difference underlies Indigenous communities’ opposition to extractivist development within their territories, particularly as they increasingly turn to a ‘rights of nature’ discourse to articulate their resistance. Scholars writing from the perspectives of political ontology and decolonial theory excitedly posit the possibility of the pluriverse emerging from the ‘ontological openings’ (de la Cadena, 2015a) and ‘decolonial cracks’ (Walsh, 2018) that these struggles are forming in the project of modernity. While such accounts are useful in elucidating how such struggles are more than ‘mere resource conflicts’ (Coombes et al., 2012a), they also risk reifying ontological difference and losing sight of their pragmatic functions. More than just a matter of academic debate, over-stating the ontological difference of Indigenous opposition to extractivism is a ‘cosmopolitical risk’ (Cepek, 2016) that has the potential to limit Indigenous communities’ aspirations for self-determination. As a consequence, this research suggests a way forward can be found in ‘ontologizing political economy’ (Burman, 2016) whilst also paying closer attention to ontological ambiguities as evidenced by the concepts of ‘transmodernity’ (Dussel, 2012), ‘partial connections’ (de la Cadena, 2015a) and ‘ch’ixi’’ (Rivera Cusicanqui, 2012).

This research fleshes out these concerns through an ethnographic engagement with the Guatemalan Tz’utujil community of San Pedro, and its opposition to a wastewater megaproject, the ‘megacolector’ being advanced by a local environmental NGO ‘Friends of the Lake’ as a solution to Lake Atitlán’s contamination. I apply a lens of political ontology and MCD to examine Pedrano community leaders’ objections to the megacolector, but also to cast an eye to the wider community, and the initiatives of artists, poets, rappers, educators, agronomists, and spiritual guides. In doing so I demonstrate that beyond being a resource conflict and an ontological conflict, Pedranos’ opposition is most significantly tied to a wider project of revindication, that is, efforts to reclaim San Pedro’s epistemic and political autonomy.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:"Guatemala"; "Political Ontology"; "Decoloniality"; "Indigenous"; "Extractivism"; "Transmodernity"; "Maya Tz'utujil"; "Lake Atitlán"
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Geography, Department of
Thesis Date:2021
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:30 Jun 2021 09:44

Social bookmarking: del.icio.usConnoteaBibSonomyCiteULikeFacebookTwitter