Coercive Harmony, Deep Capture and Environmental Justice in Puerto Rico


  • Alexa S. Dietrich

    1. is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Wagner College, 1 Campus Rd, Staten Island, NY 10301, USA. Her research interests lie at the intersection of political ecology and public health, with special attention to the social construction of risk and corporate social responsibility.
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The author would particularly like to thank Leah Horowitz for her work in introducing, coordinating and making suggestions on this cluster of papers, and Michael Scholl and Mary Lerner, as well as the referees, for comments and suggestions on earlier drafts of this article. This work is based upon research supported by the National Science Foundation under Dissertation Research Grant No. 0314446 and the Wenner-Gren Foundation under Dissertation Grant No. 7071.


This article examines how a regional NGO and a local-issue GRO in Puerto Rico have approached health and environmental concerns over water pollution from pharmaceutical production, and the consequences this has had for corporate–community–government relations. Through the analysis of historical material, public meetings and interviews, the processes through which micropolitical patterns have developed, and through which residents least conciliatory towards the drug companies are silenced, are discussed. The article questions whether persistent conflict between the corporate–government alliance and grassroots environmentalists is attributable to a ‘gap in understanding’ and suggests that the relationship is better understood through the complementary theories of ‘coercive harmony’ and ‘deep capture’. In conclusion it points out that researchers should be wary of assisting or supporting negotiations, and rather should focus on critically examining the dynamics of ‘stakeholder dialogue’ as a negotiation between relative equals.