The University of Arizona

Sacrifice zones and the construction of urban energy landscapes in Concepción, Chile

Vanesa Castán Broto, Martín Sanzana Calvet


This article examines how national energy policies in Chile constitute urban energy landscapes characterized by environmental and spatial inequalities. The concept of urban energy landscapes is deployed to explain the spatial patterns resulting from energy governance and energy conflicts in the metropolitan area of Concepción, a metropolitan region of strategic importance in the configuration of national energy policy. These urban energy landscapes result from the constitution of 'sacrifice zones' that reflect an extractivist model of energy production. The combination of qualitative interviews and transect walks reveals different aspects of a dual arrangement of energy infrastructure and urbanization. The city's fragmented landscapes emerge from the coexistence of energy infrastructure and associated industries, with daily activities of communities that have little to do with these industries but live in their shadow. Conflicts in these urban energy landscapes are intense, with every inch of space contested by competing modes of 'being urban.' The urban energy landscape in Concepción is an expression of a clash of social and economic power with local priorities.

Keywords: urban energy landscapes, industrial landscapes, sacrifice zones, energy conflicts, coal energy, Chile

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