Territory Matters in the Triple Frontera: Ciudad del Este, Itaipú, and the Paraguayan State


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


Cultural Anthropology


Leftist former Bishop Fernando Lugo was able to topple the six-decade ruling Colorado Party in Paraguay in April 2008 by channeling discontent among Paraguay’s citizenry over unfulfilled promises and the status quo by linking all these complaints to one issue: Paraguay’s hydroelectric dam shared with Brazil, Itaipú Binacional. Based on 19 months of ethnographic (“studying up”) and documentary research, this project shows how the Paraguayan state operates at the Triple Frontera, where Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina meet. Given the impact of outside powers on the make-up of the Paraguayan nation-state and the economic weight of the dam, the ability to steer the course of Itaipú translates to a perceived ability to determine the future of Paraguay. In the attempts to control the dam and construct “hydroelectric sovereignty,” we see the reconfiguration of the Paraguayan nation-state as it responds to internal and external pressures.