Version 3.2_September 2016

Individual Paper: Local struggles for socio-environmental justice and democracy: the role of enlightened resistance

Social mobilization against a mega-jail project in Haren, Belgium

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This paper analyses a particularly strong social mobilization against a mega-jail project that is planned to be built in Haren (Brussels’ region, Belgium) on a 20-ha natural site that provides a large array of ecosystem services to local inhabitants but also to the city of Brussels. The actors involved in the resistance are diverse (local inhabitants, local NGOs, ZADistes who occupied the site, the syndicate of magistrates, a lawyers association, among others). We demonstrate that the concept of "enlightened resistance" can help to highlight the political nature of the social mobilizations against mega-infrastructure projects. The aim of the paper is then to demonstrate that this movement is not a NIMBY but an act of "enlightened resistance" in line with the Degrowth movement. Indeed, the process of enlightened resistance lead involved citizens at the local scale to challenge the legitimacy of authorities by contesting their definition of “common good” or “public interest” across scales. These acts of enlightened resistance create new terrain for a true democratic controversial public debate. And this is what Snynguedouw (2014) calls the “political”. The process of enlightened resistance differs from the NIMBY phenomenon because it entails the building of four types of capabilities for the people involved in the opposition: knowledge, community building, “heritage” (“sense of belonging to a place”) and political. The mobilization is analyzed in terms of discourse analysis in order to identify the nature of the claims of the diverse opponents and to identify the key elements that have conducted to the construction of these four types of capabilities.


Day: 2016-09-02
Start time: 14:30
Duration: 00:15
Room: 399
Track: Empowering communities