Research projects

ESR 8: Water/mining paradigms and the politics of naturalizing water overabundance: a comparative study of extractive industries’ political-material construction of flooding and drainage problems

Early Stage Researcher: Hannah Porada
Host institution: Universiteit van Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Principal supervisor: Prof. Rutgerd Boelens
Co-supervisor: Prof. Andrea Gerlak & Prof. Jeroen Vos
Non-academic co-supervisor: Mr. Rodolfo Armando Rivera Pascual


Extractive industries as gas exploitation in Groningen (Netherlands) and construction materials mining in Quetzaltenango (Guatemala) deeply transform existing hydrosocial territories. They have created important water control and drainage problems as well as social disasters, by massive soil subsidence and earthquakes (Groningen) and deforestation/erosion and flooding of communities (Quetzaltenango). Transnational mining companies and governments, however, ‘naturalize’ these political water problems, blaming ‘Nature’ or generic ‘Climate Change’. They deploy de-politicized paradigms and neutralizing discourses of “responsible mining” and “integrated water resources management” and propose just technical and managerial solutions.

The scientific models they deploy, through “commensuration” (defining and imposing one common techno-scientific metric in order to understand, value, and transform the world), produce three interrelated processes: “universalization”, “technification”, and “naturalization” of a socio-environmental problem that is fundamentally a political construct based on politics and powerful decision-making.

Civil society alliances and local governments (e.g., Indigenous Peoples Federation of Guatemala, Quetzaltenango Municipality, Groninger Bodembeweging), however, seek to historicize, contextualize, de-naturalize and re-politicize these human-made water control disasters and social marginalization schemes. Both alliances are also aware that their marginalization is related to both the political economics ánd the cultural politics of their countries: extractivism in ‘remote’ and/or ‘indigenous’ regions. They look for Guatemalan-Dutch mutual action-research and organize at cross-cultural and multi-scalar scales to defend and reclaim their territories. Interactive Ph.D. research will support this horizontal and comparative learning, challenging dominant knowledge paradigms and water policy models.

This research project will:

  1. Engage in comparative (academic and participatory action) research on the mining-water control nexus
  2. Further the theorization of capitalist transformation and governmentalization of hydrosocial territories
  3. De-naturalize, historicize, and re-politicize hydro-territorial transformations and the drainage/flooding problems in Groningen and Quetzaltenango
  4. Strengthen multi-scale (local-global), multi-actor water and environmental justice alliances
  5. Devise bottom-up water governance solutions and initiatives in Groningen and Quetzaltenango.

Expected results:

  1. Comprehend the historical and contemporary water/mining nexus (in particular, the socio-environmental drainage and flooding problems) in Groningen and Quetzaltenango
  2. Mutual learning through capacity-building and cross-case exchange and strengthened cross-continental civil society alliances
  3. Attention for the water/mining problems through local, national, and international policy debates, suggesting and claiming for solutions

About Hannah Porada

Hannah Porada is a PhD candidate at the University of Amsterdam, based at the Centre for Latin American Research and Documentation. As an Early Stage Researcher with NEWAVE her research engages with the water mining nexus in The Netherlands and Guatemala. Hannah holds a MSc in Global Development from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and a BA in Economics and Political Science from the University of Münster, Germany. Before starting her PhD, Hannah conducted research on coal mining and mining-induced resettlements in the Rhineland, Germany. She also worked in international development cooperation and humanitarian action.

LinkedIn profile: Hannah Porada


Hannah Porada
NEWAVE Early Stage Researcher, Ph.D. Candidate
University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Prof. Rutgerd Boelens
Professor of Political Ecology of Water in Latin America
University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Prof. Jeroen Vos
Assistant Professor, Water Resources Management group
Wageningen University and Research, The Netherlands

Prof. Andrea Gerlak
Professor at School of Geography & Development
Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy
University of Arizona, United States

Rodolfo Armando Rivera Pascual
Director of territorial management of the municipality of Quetzaltenango
Municipalidad de Quetzal, Guatemala