Gas extraction governmentality: The depoliticization of Groningen's extractive territorialization

Hannah Porada*, Rutgerd Boelens, Jeroen Vos

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The Dutch Northeastern province of Groningen has attracted national and international attention for being situated on top of Europe's biggest gas field. Decades of gas extraction have caused human-made gasquakes that have become highly politicized as they have resulted in the damage of thousands of houses, messy compensation policies, unsafe living situations, an intense situation of social and psychological desperation, and deep political distrust. An issue that has, however, been mostly absent from political debates is the fact that the gas extraction has also caused land subsidence with major implications for the area's water systems. In this article, we investigate the depoliticizing governmentality techniques of Groningen's extractive territorialization. In doing so, we differentiate how the same governmentality techniques have mostly depoliticized gas extraction-land subsidence while they have failed to depoliticize the gasquakes. We nuance the complex power dynamics (i.e., simultaneous de- and re-politicization), socio-material transformation processes (i.e., land subsidence and gasquakes), and institutional dynamics (i.e., public water management and private compensation organizations) evoked by extractive transformations. We argue that the extractive alliance's land subsidence-governmentalities reflect a subtle re-ordering of territorial control. Yet, we also highlight the limits, contestations, and contingency of extractive governmentalization. We unravel how an understanding of power as simultaneously unintentional and intentional informs our analysis. We show how the extractive alliance benefits from the interplay of power strategies, yet not without being strongly contested by local inhabitants and social movements.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103001
JournalPolitical Geography
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024


  • Depoliticization
  • Gas extraction
  • Governmentality
  • Hydrosocial territories
  • Land subsidence
  • The Netherlands


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