Renewable Energy, Mining and Extraction Governance

Grants and Contracts Details


Renewable energy and the politics of extraction: Solar power, conventional mining, and political claims in Morocco''s rural periphery Overview of the research While extraction has occurred in Morocco for centuries, new kinds of extraction in the rural periphery have spurred conflict as residents question how resources are valued, exploited, and exported with few benefits to mitigate the damaging socio-ecological impacts to their communities. In the pre-Saharan southeast, for example, residents draw similarities between the effects of conventional mining and a recently constructed solar energy plant. After the controversial sale of collective land to the parastatal solar energy agency in 2010, residents compared the extractive politics of renewable energy with the cobalt and silver mines that had already been the site of political protest (Rignall 2016b). Residents are not only concerned about the material impacts of extraction—the appropriation of scarce water, limited jobs, and negligible investment in local development. They also wonder how their historic economic and political marginalization facilitates the extraction of resources and how, at the same time, extracting wealth intensifies state power (Bogaert 2016; Bogaert and el Kahlahoui 2019; Hamouchene 2016, 2020). This research will determine how diverse groups in the rural periphery of Morocco experience and engage with extractivism —aggressive resource extraction that creates and exploits new resource frontiers—as part of broader political claims around land and resource governance. That solar energy has opened a new resource frontier while drawing on the legacies of authoritarianism that inform conventional mining in the pre-Sahara raises an important question about the current wave of extractivism in Morocco and beyond: to what extent do different forms extractivism draw on shared strategies of governance and reshape rural politics, especially around land? Goals and objectives This proposal is for a three-year, community-engaged research project to answer the question: how have diverse social groups, civil society activists, and state actors used extraction projects as a basis for making new claims and experimenting with new forms of governance? I will conduct my primarily ethnographic research as a supplement to an action-research collaboration with a Moroccan civil society organization (Association Marocaine pour la Promotion de la Médiation), which will produce a tool-kit for conflict prevention and transformation that communities, activists, and officials can use to strengthen their participation in extractives governance at the local and regional levels. My scholarly research will focus on quotidian strategies different actors in the extraction encounter use to exercise often invisible forms of political agency outside the framework of social movements. I hypothesize that in rural Morocco, extraction has spurred new kinds of participation in formal political spaces, producing an emergent politics of the commons (collective action based on selective adoption of and challenges to customary, communal governance) but also fostering new social divisions around who represents residents’ claims. Extensive preliminary research and collaborative planning have advanced the engaged research project at the basis of this proposal, including site selection for research and program activities and partnerships that will enable the project to go forward in diverse pandemic scenarios. The action-research project with APMM and my scholarly questions compare the encounter of bureaucratic practice, resource extraction, and popular claims around rural governance in two sites in the Draa-Tafilalt region that have witnessed conflict or social mobilization: Bouazzer (Zagora Province), the site of a long-standing cobalt mine, and Zaida (Midelt Province), where a 800-megawatt concentrated solar power plant is under construction (AFDB 2017). Three specific objectives (SOs) will determine: 1) the roots and contemporary socio-political dynamics of the two extraction projects; 2) how residents have engaged with the extraction projects in the context of broader politics around land, resources, and political representation; and 3) what these dynamics indicate about the distinctiveness of extractivism as a form of governance by state and non-state actors in rural areas. These SOs also support two broader impact objectives: 1) Enhance STEM education and educator development through engaged research that is integrated into the university curriculum and implemented in field-based settings; 2) Increase partnerships between academia and others, especially Moroccan and Appalachian civic groups, for collaborative research and education through exchange visits and a bi-national course on extraction.
Effective start/end date8/15/217/31/24


  • National Science Foundation: $347,149.00


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