NEW PUBLICATION: From a White Desert to the Largest World Deposit of Lithium: Symbolic Meanings and Materialities of the Uyuni Salt Flat in Bolivia. Antipode
Sanchez-Lopez, D. (2019). From a White Desert to the Largest World Deposit of Lithium: Symbolic Meanings and Materialities of the Uyuni Salt Flat in Bolivia. Antipode
The Uyuni salt flat (Salar de Uyuni) in Bolivia possesses the largest lithium deposit in the world. Over the past 40 years, this location has been commodified and radically transformed. This paper examines how a landscape, understood from its material attributes and qualities, shapes and is shaped by social relations unfolding in a process of commodification and mining expansion. Based on primary qualitative data, the paper explores two elements: (1) how the symbolic meaning of this landscape has changed over time for the surrounding indigenous communities; and (2) how the different materialities of the salt flat as landscape, as ulexite and as lithium allow understanding of the drivers of socio‐environmental change and conflict in this region. The paper argues that social relations and governance frameworks are interlinked with changing symbolic meanings and the different materialities of the Uyuni salt flat.