Resource extraction, resistance, and religion in Nicaragua
My dissertation examines the causes of protest over resource extraction in Nicaragua, and underlines the role of religion as a catalyst for sustained and successful challenges against resource extraction. With few exceptions, existing research has rarely explored individual-level attitudes related to resource extraction. Opposition and support towards mining are not mutually exclusive from protest success in overturning a mining concession. They build off each other. If a community strongly opposes mining, especially related to economic threats and grievances tied to environmental and agricultural concerns, it will likely continue its resistance movement until it sees policy changes that halt or overturn mining concessions in the community. However, if there is support for mining in the community over economic opportunities and benefits, mining activities will likely prevail because individuals in the community believe they will economically benefit from mining. I examine the causes of opposition and support over resource extraction in two Nicaraguan mining communities through qualitative interviews and public opinion surveys. I am particularly interested in why individuals either support or oppose resource extraction, and how these attitudes are shaped by social engagement (i.e., formed or reinforced) through participation in various types of local organizations. In doing so, scholars can begin to understand different individual responses to mining that underline the aggregate stories of homogenous community resistance and better understand the individual mechanisms that lead citizens in extractive areas to either partake in mining resistance or abstain. Additionally, existing literature has largely ignored the role of religion as a catalyst in fomenting successful resistance against resource extraction. In fact, there are thousands of protests against resource extraction in Latin America and hundreds throughout Nicaragua, but only a small fraction of them are effective in stopping mining concessions. Because there are clear power imbalances between communities and extractive companies, preventing a new mining project from being implemented or ending an existing project is a very difficult endeavor. Large-scale extractive companies often utilize "divide and rule" strategies that successfully break up local opposition to extraction. My dissertation examines how religion acts as a catalyzing agent in providing communities with the organizational tools and resources that assist individuals in effectively and sustainably to unite and organize against mining until the community achieves a successful national-level policy change reversing mining concessions.