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Water community networks and the appropriation of neoliberal practices: social technology, depoliticization, and resistance

Emilie Dupuits, Universidad Central del Ecuador


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In the 1990s, various attempts to privatize water services in Latin America came from international financial institutions. Several social movements emerged to protest against privatization, especially from community and indigenous organizations collectively managing their water resources. Recent contestations are arising against extractivist states that aim to strengthen their control on strategic water resources for development purposes. Somewhat paradoxically, many water community networks have recently adopted an increasingly technical framing to be included in national decision-making processes and to be recognized as full-fledged actors in international arenas. In 2011, some of these networks created the Latin American Confederation of Community Organizations for Water Services and Sanitation (CLOCSAS). I analyzed the new strategies and frames mobilized by CLOCSAS that sought to break away from the legacy of antiprivatization movements. I studied how this rupture implies a process of professionalization and the appropriation of neoliberal practices and discourses. First, I presented the conceptual and theoretical background used to study the emergence of multiscale water community networks in Latin America. Second, I analyzed the strategies deployed by CLOCSAS, including the formalization of water community networks, the promotion of a new form of social technology, and the institutionalization of water community governance in the public sector. Finally, I discussed the ambiguities, ruptures, and tensions between water community governance and neoliberal practices.

Key words

grassroots networks; Latin America; neoliberalism; professionalization; transnationalism; water community governance

Copyright © 2019 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087