Edith Kauffer : Sediments in the Usumacinta transboundary river basin: What about political issues?

On The February 22, 2021

26 Place Bellecour - Lyon

As a by-product from the French-Mexican VAL-USES project funded by an ANR-Conacyt call, this research is proposing to analyse political issues associated with sediment extraction along the Mexican part of the Usumacinta river basin, a transboundary territory shared with Guatemala. Fieldwork in the river basin was realized in 13 locations on three rivers in small villages and towns to observe a diversity of mechanisms of extraction, uses and local organisations.

Sediment is an unidentified notion in the Mexican law and by local stakeholders who evoke stone or building materials. Local inhabitants consider the sediments as an infinite natural resource and, in many cases, as an economical opportunity. Nevertheless, sediments and the related activities of extraction evidence the existence of relevant political issues to understand the phenomenon: state law versus juridical pluralism, diverse local forms of organisation to extract sediments and their stakeholders, conflicts, violence and social regulation and the existence of local political sub-systems organised around the sediments.

Part of this preliminary research will also deal with a review of protection and restauration French policies regarding sediment extraction as an example of the transformed dynamics of sediments considered today as an environmental policy issue.

Edith Kauffer is a senior professor and researcher at the Centre of Research and Superior Studies in Social Anthropology (CIESAS) in San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas, in Mexico and a 2020-2021 Fellow of the Collegium de Lyon.