The politics of justification: newspaper representations of environmental conflict between fishers and the oil industry in Mexico

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Media representations of environmental conflicts between companies and communities play an important role in influencing ideas about the rightful exploitation of natural resources. This essay examines local newspapers’ representations of fishers’ claims over resource access in a conflict between fishers and the oil industry in Tabasco, Mexico. Our analysis is based on articles from two newspapers dating from 2003–2004 and 2007–2012, and ethnographic data from 2011–2012. Drawing on Boltanski and Thévenot’s theory of justification, discussions on patrimonial collectivities, and studies of media and social movements, we suggest that Tabascan newspapers reshape fishers’ claims over resource access by portraying fisheries and oil as patrimony. As an ambivalent vocabulary for defense of space and locality within a conflict over natural resource enclosure, the newspaper narratives of patrimony both invoke subaltern concerns and reconstrue state authority and local hierarchies. Furthermore, the newspaper narratives are interconnected with fisher leaders’ narratives in particular while misrepresenting different fisher groups’ arguments, thereby contributing to political division among the fishers as a whole.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Values
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)457-479
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2017
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 1172 Environmental sciences
  • 5203 Global Development Studies

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