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Water rights, indigenous legal mobilization and the hybridization of legal pluralism in Southern Chile
The Journal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law  (IF),  Pub Date : 2021-07-24, DOI: 10.1080/07329113.2021.1951483


Experiences in Andean countries reveal that constitutional recognition of plural rights systems is not enough to reduce the detrimental impacts of hydropower on Indigenous communities. In this article, critical legal pluralism serves as an entry point from which to raise questions about the formal recognition of Indigenous legal orders in Chile. Drawing from an hydroelectic project that would dam the Neltume lake, this study examines how to take diverse local water rights systems seriously, without wiping them out by equilizing their divergences with logically ordered, hierarchically differentiated, official law. Accordingly, it shows how a series of legal networks overlap, intersect, and mutually shape each other, as it relates to struggles over water control in Mapuche-Williche territories. Through an ongoing engagement with critical anthropological thought, the article ends by addressing how it can be challenging to translate Indigenous epistemologies and political identities into the most official of all state documents, namely, the Constitution. Considering the present-day constitution-making process in Chile, the research combines several techniques for gathering qualitative data, including in-depth interviews with respondents involved in the conflict, videography, document analysis, and secondary historical sources.