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Discourse analysis of the debate on hydroelectric dam building in Brazil

Antonio Aledo Tur
Department of Sociology I, University of Alicante, Alicante, Spain; antonio.aledo@ua.es

Hugo García-Andreu
Department of Sociology I, University of Alicante, Alicante, Spain; hugo.andreu@ua.es

Guadalupe Ortiz
Department of Sociology I, University of Alicante, Alicante, Spain; guadalupe.ortiz@ua.es

Jose Andres Domínguez-Gomez
Department of Sociology, Social Work and Public Health, University of Huelva, Huelva, Spain; andres@uhu.es

ABSTRACT: In recent years new hydroelectric dam projects in Brazil have led to intense debate across society. A range of different social actors have been engaged in these controversies, all of them deploying different discourses to legitimise their postures. This paper addresses the study of the discourses emerging around this debate in the case of two hydroelectric projects in the Cuenca del Alto Paraná River, and examines the way the multiple arguments emanating from the social actors are grouped together. On the basis of a content analysis of qualitative interviews a factor analysis was carried out to identify the groups of arguments. One of the main outcomes of this analysis highlighted the discursive isolation of a single social group – the people affected by the construction of the dams – in contrast to the other actors, who shared arguments grounded in techno-economic rationales. As opposed to this, those affected by the dam projects used arguments based on their emotions, identities and daily experiences of place; their perspectives were absent from the discourses of other actors.

KEYWORDS: Discourse analysis, storylines, hydropower, social impact, Brazil