Graduate Research Seminar

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Julie Dayot, 1st year DPhil, International Development: ‘Beyond indigenous people’s responses to oil extraction: The analysis of a struggle of valuation in the Ecuadorian Amazon’

The interactions between indigenous people and resource extraction companies worldwide have historically been antagonistic. In Latin America, two frameworks emerged to analyse these conflicts, as ecological and cultural distribution conflicts. They are defined, by Martinez-Alier (2002) and Escobar (2008), as conflicts over the meaning assigned to Nature by different groups in society. Typically, resource extraction represents a direct threat for indigenous people, who struggle for the preservation of the environment as a source of livelihood and cultural identity. Through their models, monetary compensation cannot solve the conflict, as ecological losses are incommensurable with money. In Ecuador, however, such interpretation was denounced as essentializing the struggles of indigenous people (Fontaine 2004), whose heterogeneous claims were sometimes accommodated through the material and social compensation brought by large oil companies in their territories. For the critiques of this ‘standard narrative’ (Reider and Wasserstrom 2013), the Ecuadorian oil conflict is better understood as the search for a ‘middle ground’ (Sabin 1998). But what is a ‘middle ground’ if it involves an incommensurable loss related to the right to one’s ecological and cultural ‘difference’? Through an analysis of the different claims of indigenous people who voted in favour of oil extraction in the ITT fields of the Ecuadorian Amazon, I attempt to reconceptualize the frameworks of ecological and cultural distribution conflicts in the light of the important criticism raised by the counter-narrative. I show that because there is no necessary ‘hierarchy’ between the various claims of indigenous people, the acceptation of oil extraction can coexist with the perceptions of an incommensurable loss, related to what Escobar (2008) labels one’s cultural ‘difference’. Thus, oil extraction coupled with ‘social compensation’ might not create conflicts but rather result in non-conflictive, yet problematic, situations.This possibility points to the need to go beyond the mere analysis of the responses of indigenous people to oil extraction in their territories, to tackle the question of the different struggles and claims such decisions entail, especially in countries where, as in Ecuador, the right to prior consultation could legitimize the expansion of oil activities in indigenous territories.

Porey Lin, MPhil, Politics (Comparative Government): ‘Legislative Assassinations in the Third Reich’

In the summer of 1934, the Nazi Party of Germany embarked on a three-day rampage known as the Blood Purge to assassinate Jews, political rivals and strangely, members of its own government. Fourteen members of the German legislature were assassinated, despite most of them being part of the Nazi Party as well as having diplomatic immunity. The official explanation of the Blood Purge, as declared by the Nazi Party, was that certain legislative members were plotting a coup to overthrow Adolf Hitler. The official explanation has been dismissed in the extant literature due to lack of evidence indicating the plotting of a coup. However, the explanation could still be plausible if Hitler perceived the legislative members to have sufficient work and military experience to plot a coup in the future. To investigate victim selection in the Blood Purge, I create a dataset of randomly selected legislative members of the 1933 Reichstag, which was formed a year prior to the Blood Purge and included victims and non-victims of the purge. I statistically analyze the dataset to see whether work and military experiences affected the likelihood of legislative members being selected for assassination. This paper concludes that variation in the victim selection in the Blood Purge can be explained by Adolf Hitler’s perceived threat of legislative members both militarily and politically. This paper suggests that the dismissal of the official explanation of the Blood Purge be reevaluated.