The Discourse of Water Governance in Chile: The Case of Petorca and The Dark Side of The Avocado Boom

Maria Erngaard

Student thesis: Master thesis

Abstract

The following thesis is about the role of discourses in the area of water governance in Chile, where water has been privatized since 1981. The study takes point of departure in the conflict over water in the Petorca region as avocado agribusinesses have been accused of causing draught and depriving water from citizens. The discourse of water governance is investigated by answering the following problem statement: How is the conflict over water in Petorca constituted in the struggle between the neoliberal discourse and the discourse around increasing social awareness in water governance? And consequently, what are the implications of the conflict on the discourse of water governance in Chile? First, the thesis reviews the existing literature on the subject, on which it bases its understanding of the neoliberal discourse and the discourse around increasing social awareness in water governance, which is essential in order to conduct research on the matter. Next, the thesis outlines its methodological foundation, which rests on the three-dimensional conception of discourse by Fairclough. This is used as a tool to reveal how the discourse of water governance has been constituted in a struggle between a neoliberal discourse on water governance and a social discourse on water governance. Following the methodology section, the thesis presents and analyzes three episodes of a discursive event around the conflict over water in Petorca. These three episodes stem from the actors involved in the conflict: The avocado agribusinesses, the Chilean government and a social movement, which is fighting against the agribusinesses’ overexploitation of water. The discursive event was taken as a case study to expose the underlying dynamics and power relations, which are present within the discourse of water governance in Chile to understand why water is privatized in spite of its social implications. Through the analysis of the discourses applied by the three actors, it is revealed that the avocado industry possesses a position of power, which allows it to establish the neoliberal discourse on water governance as the dominant discourse on water governance, and thereby protect the free market conditions, which the industry is operating under today. Finally, the findings of the analysis are critically discussed to assess the implications of the conflict over water in Petorca on the order of discourse on water governance in Chile. This includes a discussion of an indication of a change found in the neoliberal discourse of the avocado industry towards more social awareness.

EducationsMSc in Business, Language and Culture - Business and Development Studies, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
LanguageEnglish
Publication date2019
Number of pages94
SupervisorsHans Krause Hansen