Natural Resources, Civil Conflict, and the Political Ecology of Scale
Wayland, Joshua James
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This dissertation adopts a multi-scalar and mixed methods approach to interrogate the widely observed but underdefined relationship between natural resources and civil conflict. The results of three largely independent analyses are presented, corresponding to three distinct but overlapping epistemological scales and applying analytical methods appropriate to each scale. Cross-country spatial econometric analysis concluded that interstate variation in the incidence of conflict events is explained, in part, by a resource curse mechanism, whereby economic dependence on petroleum rents undermines state capacity and democratic governance, making a state more vulnerable to conflict. The results of a subnational quantitative study of the New People’s Army insurgency in the Philippines suggest that the spatial distribution of conflict risk within countries affected by civil war can be shaped by the environmental and socioeconomic impacts of resource extraction. And, a case study of a conflict over magnetite mining in the northern Philippines found that controversial resource extraction projects can create opportunities for non-state actors to develop alliances with civilian networks, discursively rescale localized disputes over resource governance to align with broader patterns of civil violence, and propagate narrative frames justifying violent collective action. From these results, a political ecology of scale in resource-related conflicts is set forth, arguing that the scalar properties of conflict vulnerability, conflict risk, and conflict opportunity have both epistemological and ontological implications; in particular, it is proposed that extractive enclaves, by fostering overlapping and intersecting scalar configurations of economic, socio-cultural, governance, and biophysical processes, constitute ‘natural habitats’ for civil conflict in which various actors can renegotiate their relative scalar positions through discursive and violent means to achieve political objectives.