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Las madres del plomo”: Women’s Environmental Activism and Suffering in Northern Chile

  • Evelyn Arriagada
Chapter
Part of the Studies of the Americas book series (STAM)

Abstract

This chapter focuses on an environmental conflict linked to toxic mining waste, imported into Chile during the dictatorship and deposited in the northern Chilean city of Arica. Particularly, it highlights the point of view of a group of female grassroots leaders who experienced daily exposure to this toxic waste and collectively organized to demand a solution. I analyze 37 semi-structured interviews carried out with male and female grassroots leaders and state workers during 2014 and 2015. The analysis is based upon the concept of environmental suffering (Auyero and Swistun, Inflamable. Paidós, 2008), which I extend to include the gendered, and not only class-based, inequalities seen in the subjective experiences of those affected by the toxic waste contamination. At the same time, I also employ the concepts of maternalism (Koven and Michel, Mothers of a New World. Maternalist Politics and the Origins of the Welfare States. Routledge, 1993) and female consciousness (Kaplan, Signs 7: 545–566, 1982), in order to analyze how traditional gender roles imprinted particular characteristics onto the politicization of the women interviewed. The main results show that both the experience and the particular expression of activism of those female leaders are shaped by being women, mothers and caretakers of the “children of lead” (niños del plomo).

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Evelyn Arriagada
    • 1
  1. 1.Observatorio de Desigualdades, Escuela de Sociología, Universidad Diego PortalesSantiagoChile

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