Short-Bio

Alexandra Bechtum is a scientific coordinator at the Faculty of Social Science, University of Kassel and at the Centre for Advanced Latin American Studies (CALAS). She studied political science as well as English and Spanish literature and linguistics at the University of Freiburg, the University of Aberdeen and the University of Gießen. Her doctoral research focuses on corporate community relations in the context of large-scale mining in Argentina.

Research Interests

• Politics of natural resources and industrial mining
• North-South relations
• Development theory and postcolonial theory
• Social movements theory
• Memory studies

Regional focus: South America (Argentina, Chile, Peru)

Recent Publications

  • Bechtum, A. & Overwien, B. (2017). Kann postkoloniale Kritik Schule machen? Über ihre Grenzen und Potenziale für (entwicklungs-)politische Bildungsarbeit. In: H.-J. Burchard, S. Peters & N. Weinmann (Eds.), Entwicklungstheorie von heute: Entwicklungspolitik von morgen (59–84), Nomos.

  • Bechtum, A. (2018). La minería a gran escala en la Patagonia Sur: El caso de Cerro Vanguardia y la localidad de Puerto San Julián, Santa Cruz. Identidades, 14(8), 154–174.

  • Bechtum, A. (2016). La ‘Educacion ne se vende, se defiende’. Der Kampf um Bildung im post-autoritären Chile. Bildung und Soziale Bewegungen. Forschungsjournal Soziale Bewegungen, 29(4), 54–59.

  • Bechtum, A. (2016). Von der Straße ins Parlament. Ehemalige Sprecher der studentischen Protestbewegung in Chile jetzt im Kongress. Matices, 85, 8–11.

Research Projects

Transnational mining companies and local politics. A case study on large-scale gold mining in Argentina

In the context of the rapid expansion of large-scale mining in Latin America, Argentina has become a principal destination for foreign direct investment since the 1990s. Transnational mining companies extract metals in large-scale open-pit mines applying industrial extraction methods. In some mining areas, the adverse social and environmental consequences of these methods have led to a growing number of conflicts. Mining companies have developed a set of programmes with which they are trying to create social acceptance. Their programmes focus on social and infrastructural measures with which they reach into public domains associated exclusively with the state. Existing empirical research focuses on the emergence of conflicts between mining companies and local protest groups or considers the relationship as a form of corporate management. However, they do not explain the democratic and developmental impacts that can result from corporate activities in the mining regions.

This dissertation analyzes to what extent mining companies influence decision-making processes and local policies in mining regions. What strategies do mining companies pursue to gain social acceptance? What are the democratic and developmental impacts of their activities? To answer these questions, I developed an analytical framework that combines approaches from governance theory, critical geography, participation theory and CSR literature. I analyse the influence of mining companies using a collective case study whereby I study corporate influence in two communities adjacent to the industrial gold mines Veladero and Cerro Vanguardia in the Argentine Northwest and Southern Patagonia.

The results show that mining companies spatialize corporate interests by privatising public areas and establishing their own rights of use. They contribute to an informalisation of local decision-making processes by creating local participation opportunities for representatives of political institutions and other local organizations. Likewise, they assume quasi-governmental functions and, in this way, promote a process of privatisation that affects local policies. My work contributes to the debate on the expansion of mining in Latin America and provides insight into how mining companies gain legitimacy and what effects their strategies have on democracy and local development.