Hydrocarbons, popular protest and national imaginaries: Ecuador and Bolivia in comparative context

Tom Perreault, Gabriela Valdivia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

169 Scopus citations


This paper examines contemporary struggles over hydrocarbon governance in Ecuador and Bolivia. Our comparative analysis illustrates the ways that petro-capitalism, nationalist ideologies, popular movements and place conjoin in the governance of oil and natural gas. In the case of Ecuador, state employees drew on their labor relations and political training to oppose the government's efforts to privatize the state oil company. In Bolivia, urban popular movements opposed the privatization of the hydrocarbons industry and its domination by foreign firms. In both cases, hydrocarbons struggles involved the production of imaginative geographies of the nation and it hydrocarbon resources, which in turn drew on historical memories of nationhood. Whereas neoliberal political and economic restructuring sought to re-organize national hydrocarbons companies, redraw concessions, and draft new resource extraction laws, hydrocarbon movements aimed to counter these processes by re-centering hydrocarbon governance within a populist vision of the nation-state. In contrast to analyses of resource conflict in the environmental security and resource curse literatures, the cases of Ecuador and Bolivia demonstrate that such struggles cannot be reduced to models of opportunity structure, war profiteering, or resource scarcity (or abundance). Rather, these cases show that political economy and cultural politics are inseparable in the context of resource conflicts, which involve struggles over the meanings of development, citizenship and the nation itself.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)689-699
Number of pages11
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2010


  • Bolivia
  • Ecuador
  • Hydrocarbons
  • Natural gas
  • Oil
  • Resource conflict

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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