Joaquín Bernáldez

Contact Details

Kleine Rosenstr. 1 - 3, D-34109 Kassel, Germany



ICDD/ University of Kassel

PhD Project Title

The Political Ecology of Fracking in Argentina

Abstract of PhD Thesis

In the Argentinean region of North Patagonia lies one of the larger sites of non-conventional oil and gas resources in the world. In order to exploit it, the country has recently endorsed the development of leading technology such as hydraulic fracking. Whilst the government assures that the exploitation of these resources will bring prosperity to the nation, sectors of civil society claim that fracking perpetuates the plundering and contamination of territories inhabited by indigenous communities.

The concept of “(neo-) extractivism” proposes that the production of primary commodities defines the distinctive model of development of current Latin American societies. Most authors suggest that the legitimacy of the model may rest upon mitigating its adverse effects through the redistribution of the rents to the population. In other contexts within the Global South, the “rentier theory” associates problems such as inefficient economic and political structures with the dependency on (mainly oil) extractive activities. Thus, it is maintained, oil economies hinder development and democracy. All in all, the literature pays scant attention to the concrete social processes leading to the reproduction of a model of development based on extractive activities. Further, little is known about the configuration of social structures and especially, socio-cultural characteristics of extractive societies.
The research project addresses two highly interconnected questions: 1) the social processes that enable (or hinder) fracking in North Patagonia and in turn reproduce (or alter) a historical form of relating to nature rooted in the commodification of oil and gas; 2) the ways in which the dependency on oil and gas extraction configures social structures, practices and representations. The latter is relevant to answer the former if we assume that social configurations rooted on extractive activities play an important role in the reproduction of a specific society-nature relationship.

These questions are informed by critical political ecology (CPE) as a distinctive theoretical approach to society-nature relationships. CPE assumes that society and nature are not closed entities linked by external relations but rather mutually constituted. The approach further reengages nature in social history and space emphasizing that power relations have a central role in the configuration of social relations, practices and representations related to the appropriation and transformation of nature. Finally, the researcher project relies on an intensive research design focusing on a case study and using qualitative and ethnographic methods.

Area of Interest

Political Ecology, Extractivism, Rentierism, Socio-Ecological Conflicts, Ethnography, Latin America

Educational Background


Master of Arts in Global Political Economy, University of Kassel, Germany


Teacher for High School and Higher Education in Anthropological Sciences (Socio-Cultural Orientation), University of Buenos Aires, Argentina


Bachelor of Arts in Tourism, Universidad del Salvador, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Professional Experience


(summer semster): Tutor for the Master Core Course "Theory of International Political Economy", M.A. Global Political Economy, University of Kassel, Germany


(winter semester): Lecturer on the Master Special Option Course "Exploitation and Commodification of Nature in a Globalized World", M.A. Global Political Economy, University of Kassel, Germany


Project Assistant for the ICDD, University of Kassel, Germany


Field Assistant in the “National Population, Homes and Housing Census 2010”, National Institute of Statistics and Census (INDEC), Buenos Aires, Argentina.


Lecturer on "History of Culture", Popular Secondary School for Adults "Miguelito Pepe", Occupants and Tenants Movement (MOI) - Argentinean Labour Union (CTA), Buenos Aires, Argentina

tourist industry on part-time basis


Bernaldez, J. M. (2016) "Hacia una ecología política del fracking en la Patagonia Argentina" [Towards a political ecology of fracking in Argentine Patagonia]. Identidades, Dossier 3, Año 6, pp. 32-48. (LINK)