IU Is Everywhere

From Bloomington to Bangkok, meet members of the IU family who are acting as ambassadors for the university.

Ligaya McGovern, Philippines

Ligaya McGovern represented IU Kokomo in the Philippines, where she researched the impacts of corporate mining thanks to the Fulbright Program.

Ligaya McGovern’s Fulbright work in Manila, the Philippines, combines activism and on-the-scene research. McGovern was awarded the prestigious grant to conduct research in Manila last semester.

The Philippines native is using interviews with indigenous communities and participant observation of their resistance forms in the country to study the disjuncture between human rights and sustainable development there.

McGovern, an Indiana University Kokomo sociology professor, was hosted by the National Alliance of Indigenous People and the Asian Social Institute during her time abroad.

The Philippines is home to indigenous communities whose rights – as defined by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – are being threatened by corporate mining, especially open-pit mining, from transnational corporations, McGovern said.

The image caption followsView print quality image
IU Kokomo professor of sociology Ligaya McGovern introduces Bernard O'Connor at a discussion on the IU Kokomo campus.  Photo courtesy of IU Kokomo

Those rights include a right to life, ancestral lands, education, a safe environment and self-determination. These rights all work in conjunction with one another, McGovern said.

“They’re all interrelated,” she said. “If one right is violated, then the other rights are also affected.”

The Philippine Mining Act of 1995 has liberalized the entry of transnational corporations in the extractive mining industry and allows for open-pit mining in the country. The Philippines has brought in transnational corporations whose native countries, like Australia, outlaw it.

The controversial practice disrupts the environments on which the indigenous people rely. It pollutes rivers, so they can no longer find fish, and it poisons animals that drink from the water, McGovern said. It also brings down trees and threatens other vital resources, such as the watershed.

The practice also keeps the indigenous people from making a living, as they’ve lost their land to these transnational corporations, she said.

“The indigenous people consider themselves keepers of the forests, the mountains, for a very l long time.  They are taking care of it,” McGovern said. “They farm, some of them. They even have small-scale, traditional mining that’s not environmentally destructive. Because they lost their land, that’s not one of their sources of income anymore. 

I hope that students and my colleagues can experience the same thing, because it’s humanizing. You really learn a lot when you’re in the field.

Ligaya McGovern

“It is hopeful that there is a growing resistance among the indigenous people, but what is even more sad is that they are facing military repression that takes away their right to life and self-determination,” she said.

McGovern is compiling her research findings into a short book that activists in the country can use to lobby for governmental change and regulations against open pit mining and for the passage of an alternative People’s Mining Bill. It will be published both in English and in local dialects for those activists to use in educational and informational campaigns.

She said she plans to continue her on-site research, but she’s looking forward to sharing what she’s learned about activism and social justice with students at IU Kokomo. She thinks American students should be able to find parallels and connections between their own lives and the experiences of students in the Philippines.

“I hope that students and my colleagues can experience the same thing, because it’s humanizing. You really learn a lot when you’re in the field,” she said. “It’s not only that you learn research skills, but you also get humanized as you understand social justice more and the systems of domination and oppression.”