Home Institution

University of Northwestern

Publication Date

Fall 2015

Program Name

Chile: Cultural Identity, Social Justice, and Community Development


This investigation analyzes the movement in opposition to the HidroAysén project in Southern Chile that is often referred to as and uses the slogan “Patagonia Sin Represas” (Patagonia Without Dams). The investigation is framed through collective action theory, the study of what incentives and other factors create the conditions for mobilization and group action. In the context of social movements it is usually argued that there needs to be a better cost-benefit scenario for each actor to be involved than there is to not be involved in the movement. Immediately following return of democracy to Chile in the 1990’s social movements were small and unsuccessful as the state looked to maintain stability. In addition, the environmental movement has been historically week as the model of development has prioritized economic growth over the protection of the environment. Both of those things suddenly changed in May of 2011 as thousands poured into the streets to protest the potential construction of dams in Patagonia. This investigation studies how this mobilization and the events before and after helped to form what has been the most successful environmental movement in the history of the country. It will analyze the factors that differentiate the opposition to the HidroAysén project to other social and environmental movements and allowed it to mobilize an unprecedented number of organizations and ordinary people against not only the project, but the Chilean model of development and governance.


Environmental Indicators and Impact Assessment | Environmental Studies | Growth and Development | Inequality and Stratification | Natural Resources and Conservation | Natural Resources Management and Policy | Water Resource Management