Controversies of consent: the contradictory uses of indigenous free, prior, and informed consultation and consent in Panama [DISSERTATION]

Controversies of consent: the contradictory uses of indigenous free, prior, and informed consultation and consent in Panama [DISSERTATION]
Marian Ahn Thorpe
Rutgers University; School of Graduate Studies, October 2020
Description
This dissertation examines the right of Free, Prior, and Informed Consultation and Consent (FPIC) in western Panama, where Ngäbe Indigenous communities have long fought to protect their land from copper mines, hydroelectric projects, and other forms of development. Drawing on sixteen months of ethnographic and legal research between 2013 and 2016, I demonstrate that, like other forms of multicultural recognition, FPIC can be used by states to manage Indigenous dissent and rights-wash contentious projects. This management can take place through careful attention to the wording or procedural details of FPIC policies; or, it can occur through the ways in which consent-seekers and consent-givers exploit or circumvent conflict-prone community decision-making processes. However, while FPIC can be used to limit Indigenous rights, I also show how various groups of Ngäbe still defy and work within these constraints. More broadly, I show that the Western liberal conception of consent as autonomous free choice obscures ways in which consent embeds subjects in relations of power. By framing consent not as a sign of freedom but as a sign of power relations, I underscore how FPIC and other forms of multicultural recognition join together Indigenous peoples and states to collaboratively create the multicultural state.

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