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Reclaiming the lake

Citizenship and environment-as-common-property in highland Peru

Mattias Borg Rasmussen

Keywords: citizenship; environmental struggles; mining; Peru; property

Since the early 1990s Peru has experienced an expansion in mining activities and an expansion in what the Peruvian ombudsman defines as socioenvironmental conflicts. This article examines the dynamics through which an environmental issue is transformed into a matter of citizenship and social belonging during a weeklong uprising in defense of Lake Conococha. Highlighting the collective actions and personal narratives from participants in the region-wide blockade, the article therefore seeks to understand how dispossessions of environmental resources perceived as common property are cast in terms of individual rights that move well beyond the site of conflict. It is therefore argued that the actions to reclaim Lake Conococha were not only a battle for natural resources and clean water, but more fundamentally an attempt to repossess a citizenship that may be constitutionally secured but all too often fails to be a lived reality in the high Andes of Peru.

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