Privatizing Water and Articulating Indigeneity: The Chilean Water Reforms and the Atacameño People (Likan Antai)
AdvisorBauer, Carl J.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThe Chilean Water Code of 1981 has been presented as a successful case of free-market water reforms. In the northern Atacama Desert, the Atacameño people have developed their indigeneity in the context of the forceful implementation of this radical free market system. This situation invites an examination of the connections between the Chilean state's free-market restructuring of water governance and the process through which indigenous groups claim their identity through water politics. This dissertation addresses the following questions: (Q1) Why and how have the Atacameño people claimed indigeneity within the context of the pro-market water reforms? (Q2) How have Atacameño identity and the water reforms been conceived, articulated, and reproduced in relation to each other? This question is broken down into sub-questions: (Q2a) How do pro-market water reforms and related conflicts inspire indigeneity and water practices among the Atacameños? and (Q2b) How do the articulation of indigeneity and water practices among the Atacameños, in turn, reshape the pro-market water reforms? During fieldwork it became clear that the water market was not as active as I expected and that Atacameños are not selling water rights, but buying them, leading to a third question: (Q3) Why are the Atacameños not selling their water rights to mining companies and urban water supply, despite the extremely high purchasing power of the former, and why have indigenous communities recently become the main buyers of water rights? In answering these questions, this dissertation explores how water management is not just about the management of the management of H20, but is also related to the production of new subjectivities. In the case of the Chilean Water Code of 1981, rather than being a threat to a certain genuine or fixed Atacameño tradition, community, or identity, it is seen as a key catalyst that has allowed a group of people to publically articulate a legitimate indigenous positionality upon particular historical sediments and political economic conditions. Here the Atacameños appear to be articulating their history with contemporary issues, knowledge, and multiple practices in relation to specific current claims about the control of water resources. This fact has questions the water reforms in terms that they were reshaped by the process of identity formation. Indeed, the Atacameños successfully mobilized their identity to partially reject the privatization process, thereby subverting the neoclassical expectations that, within a free market, water should flow toward its highest economic value uses. Finally, this dissertation shows how the Chilean model, rather than being a free market approach to water management that supposes the withdrawal of the state, relies heavily on the state's centralized actions. As such, this dissertation (1) questions the existence of a truly free water market for the allocation of water rights in the Atacameño area (2) highlights the role of the state as the main central and hierarchical source of water allocation for both mining and urban supply companies, and (3) argues that the implementation of the Water Code is another chapter in the history of the state's the internal colonialism of the Atacama Desert.
Degree ProgramGraduate College