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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 article 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 Thevenot'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. Being an ambivalent vocabulary for the defence 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, and thereby contribute to political division among the fishers as a whole.
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Keywords: Fishers; justification; media representation; oil industry; patrimony

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2017

More about this publication?
  • Environmental Values is an international peer-reviewed journal that brings together contributions from philosophy, economics, politics, sociology, geography, anthropology, ecology and other disciplines, which relate to the present and future environment of human beings and other species. In doing so we aim to clarify the relationship between practical policy issues and more fundamental underlying principles or assumptions.

    Environmental Values has a Journal Impact Factor (2019) of 2.158. 5 Year Impact Factor: 2.047.
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