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Title: Confronting the juggernaut of extraction : local, national and transnational mobilisation against the Phulbari coal mine in Bangladesh
Author: Luthfa, Samina
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2012
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A massive open-cast coal mine was proposed for Phulbari in 1994, with the support of the government and international financial organisations. Threatened by displacement, the apparently powerless community mobilised against the mine. Allied with the national and the transnational activist organisations, they successfully stopped the mine. This remarkable success is the subject of the thesis. This resistance is compared quantitatively with the incidence of protests in 397 other mines in the South Asia. Predictors of protest include density of population, proportion of area under forest cover, and ownership by a multinational company. These factors alone would predict a high probability of protest in Phulbari. To understand how the resistance unfolded and why it was successful, the thesis relies on ethnographic evidence. I conducted participant observation and interviewed sixty-four individuals in Phulbari and Dhaka in Bangladesh and in London. Mobilisation against the mine can be explained in part by dialogic framing. Local challengers continuously opposed the dominant discourse of development. Crucially, they shifted their identity to legitimize their opposition to the mine by tagging it with nationalism. As a result, local resistance established links with national left-wing activists. Mobilisation culminated in a mass march of 70,000 in 2006, which was fired on by government forces, with several casualties. Repression failed to quail the resistance. Continued mobilisation was motivated by emotional responses like anger, and facilitated by cultural practices like the obligatory funeral procession. Media reports of the repression catapulted the resistance on to the global stage. This alone is not sufficient to explain the formation of a transnational alliance against the mine. This was maintained by the presence of a large community of Bangladeshi living in Britain, and the mediating role of the left-wing activists in Bangladesh; both groups could translate between locals and western NGOs. This transnational coalition impeded the mining company by targeting international financial organisations, Western governments, the government of Bangladesh, and investors in London. As a result, the company’s share price has collapsed and there seems little prospect of the project proceeding.
Supervisor: Biggs, Michael Sponsor: Commonwealth Commission, UK
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Sociology -- Social movement ; mining ; protests ; environment ; displacement ; national interest