From matters of fact to places of concern? Energy, environmental movements and place-making in Chile and Thailand

C. Schaeffer, M. Smits

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


As demand for energy is growing and resources become scarcer, energy increasingly becomes the site of heated controversies. In Latour’s terms, energy turns from a “matter of fact” into a “matter of concern”. In these energy controversies, environmental movements frequently play a central role, highlighting what is at stake in these developments. While these movements have often been studied, these studies rarely focus on the interaction between controversies, environmental movements, and place-making. In this article, we not only argue that energy is frequently turned from matter of fact into a matter of concern, but that this argument also extends to the notion of place. As such, energy controversies turn villages, cities, or regions themselves into “places of concern”. The article delves deeper into the production of places of concern through two case studies of energy controversies around power plants: a proposed coal plant in Bo Nok, Thailand, and HidroAysen, a hydropower project in Chilean Patagonia. We specifically focus on the issues that were opened up for debate in both countries, and on the role of environmental movements in the production of these places. Our examples are based on fieldwork and interviews in these two areas, as well as media and document analysis. While the two cases are from two different countries, we nonetheless find surprising parallels between them. These insights are instrumental to link theoretical debates on controversies and place-making. Moreover, they provide empirical insights into the transformative and lasting effects of energy controversies on people and places.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)146-157
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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