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Voting on the future: Imaginaries and motivations in referendum decisions against extractive industries in Colombia.


For countries in the global south, extractive industries can provide governments with a shortcut to economic development. For countries in the global south, extractive industries can provide governments with a shorcut to economic development. However, many communities where those project would take place reject them upfront and advocate for development of a different kind. In a unique and recent phenomenon, local communities in Colombia are organising referendums that halt resource extraction altogether. Since their appearance, very little research has been done to understand this phenomenon. Voting for or against a particular extractive project gathers an array of values, motivations and imaginaries that go beyond endorsement or rejection. Yet, voting in a certain way need not mean unity of opinions, and can obscure the struggles of campesinos and ethnic minorities for equality and access to land. Colombia’s legal framework permits citizens to call for referendums to decide issues that affect them. Wanting to vote for or against extractivism implies a desire to define the terms of the future in a region. The objective of this project is to explain the role of referendums against and in favour of extractive industries in articulating, or not, alternatives to extractivist development. It will do so by questioning whether a No to extractivism means a Yes to an alternative path to development, or if it means the continuation of the current social struggles. This in-depth study will employ ethnographic fieldwork, including participant-observation, interviews, and photography, to document the practices and discourses of actors involved in referendums. Referendums in Colombia provide insight of the wider trend of plebiscite democracy (e.g. Colombian peace and corruption referendums, Brexit, Catalonia) as supplement to institutional democracy (e.g. centralised, technocratic), in which casting a vote means more than endorsement or rejection of a particular political project.

Field of science

  • /social sciences/political science/government systems/democracy
  • /social sciences/sociology/social problems/corruption
  • /social sciences/other social sciences/social sciences interdisciplinary/sustainable development

Call for proposal

See other projects for this call

Funding Scheme

MSCA-IF-EF-ST - Standard EF


405 30 Goeteborg
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 203 852,16