Spaces of Socio-Ecological Distress: Fossil Fuels, Solar Salt, and Fishing Communities in Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Thomas A. Perreault


Fishing communities, Fossil fuels, Lake Maracaibo, Political ecology, Political economy, Salt

Subject Categories



This dissertation examines how the livelihoods and health of fishers in the community of Ancon de Iturre have been affected by the industrial production of solar salt used mostly for the extraction and petrochemical transformations of fossil fuels in Lake Maracaibo. I argue that even though the productive infrastructure of resource extraction industries are spatially fixed in place, the social and environmental consequences resulting from the production of oil and natural gas happen not just in situ. Rather they are re-produced at different times and geographic scales away from the extraction sites as a result of the extensive spatial reach of fossil fuels.

The project, grounded in political ecology and political economy of nature, endeavors to unravel the socio-ecological contradictions that emerge from the complex relations between nature and society in Ancón de Iturre. In order to uncover the complex interactions between the different actors involved in this study, I develop an approach that blends an evaluation of broader-scale material and institutional interconnections with an ethnographically oriented analysis of the day-to-day dynamics of fisher's struggle to consolidate their livelihoods. This approach utilized a mix of qualitative methods such as archival work, document analysis, semi-structured interviews, oral histories, and participant observation.

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