02 September 2008

LECTURE: Environmental violence and crises of legitimacy in New Caledonia

Title: Environmental violence and crises of legitimacy in New Caledonia

Leah Horowitz
9/12 at 2 pm
B120 Lucy Stone Hall; Livingston Campus

This paper addresses the question of what hidden tensions shape environmental conflicts by investigating the responses of residents of villages near a mining project in New Caledonia to Rhéébù Nùù, an indigenous environmental protest group. An overlooked and yet crucial factor in local support for the protest group was a lack of faith in the government and, more fundamentally, in the democratic system through which representatives were elected; instead, villagers put their faith in a revitalization of customary authority. Thus, this environmental violence masked a crisis of political legitimacy, grounded in a history of opposition to the colonial power. However, not all community members felt that Rhéébù Nùù indeed had the support of customary authority, and many disagreed with the group’s violent tactics. Thus, an examination of specific histories and cultural forms is necessary in order to understand people’s choices about who best represents their interests and, thus, to whom they should give their support in instances of environmental conflict.

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