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White Coal Nation? Resource-making, identity, and hegemony in the struggle over Georgia’s hydropower development

WYETH, RYAN,DAVID (2022) White Coal Nation? Resource-making, identity, and hegemony in the struggle over Georgia’s hydropower development. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This thesis examines the conflict over hydropower development in Georgia, with a particular focus on three mega-projects — the Enguri, Khudoni, and Nenskra hydropower plants (HPPs). I examine debates over hydropower taking place in Georgia’s spaces of public discourse. My analysis is rooted in resource geography and political ecology, and specifically their subfields of resource-making, critical hydropolitics, studies of resource nationalism, and Gramscian political ecology. The thesis draws on interviews and library research undertaken during eight months of fieldwork in Georgia during October 2018-July 2019, as well as supplementary desk research performed in July 2019-April 2021.

Through a close reading of empirics from textual sources and interviews, I systematically sort through and present arguments mobilized for and against hydropower development in the Georgian national discourse. I also provide detailed background information to situate these arguments within their broader socio-political-economic context. I then analyze this discourse and its relation to broader social context using the academic literature mentioned above.

In so doing, I make several key observations about the conflict over hydropower in Georgia, and about resource-making and resource conflicts more broadly. Specifically, I argue that the concept of a resource is an imaginary constructed for rhetorical purposes in an ‘economy of appearances’; that resources and national identity are mutually reinforcing imaginaries, each of which is (re)defined and contested with reference to the other; and that resource conflicts are Gramscian struggles to articulate and establish a hegemonic national vision, prosecuted by redefining the nation’s socio-natural relations. Finally, I use these conclusions to argue that geographers must pay increased attention to resource-making as a multi-step process, to the material consequences of disjunctures between resource imaginaries and the material world they describe, and to the way resources and other imaginaries are interwoven and therefore simultaneously produced and contested.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Georgia, Svaneti, Svan, Caucasus, hydropower, hydroelectricity, dam, Enguri, Khudoni, Nenskra, resource, resource-making, resource development, nation, identity, indigenous, hegemony, imaginaries, geography
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Geography, Department of
Thesis Date:2022
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:17 Jan 2022 11:50

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