Contested and Uncertain Temporalities of Resource Extraction

Continued and accelerating use of natural resources is contributing to new forms and sites of resource extraction around the globe, using conventional and unconventional methods. Resource extraction is a process that engages and mobilizes various temporalities: from the geologic timescales at which mineral deposits are formed, to the ecological timescales of forest regrowth, to the economic timescales of market fluctuations, and to the social timescales of hope, fear, and nostalgia around extractive industries.

 

The politics of resource extraction are intertwined with memories and nostalgia (Ferguson 1999), as well as projections, fears, and hopes for the future. For instance, the specter of resource wealth and extraction may contribute to an anticipatory form of politics as workers, communities, and politicians imagine prosperity from new projects and establish safeguards against a “resource curse” (Weszkalnys 2008, 2014). Time and temporality is also a source of friction for corporations and industries, as regulatory review and permitting processes can delay projects and increase costs. In addition, activist groups utilize both a politics of scale and a politics of time (Kirsch 2014), in order to strategically intervene in early approvals stages of extractive projects and produce delay through regulatory interventions, litigation, and direct action to resist the seeming inevitability of extractive development. Corporations are thus brought into complex sets of interactions with communities and activists (Golub 2014, Li 2015, Salles Pereira dos Santos & Milanez 2015), producing new kinds of arrangements and outcomes. One of these possible arrangements between corporate and social actors has been termed “temporal dispossession” from resource extraction, or the robbing of autochthonous populations’ abilities to produce predictable time (Smith 2011).

 

In addition to temporalities of engagement with political and social systems, resource extraction relies on science and calculation in developing economic predictions amid  the “radical incalculability” of future commodity prices and profits (Appel et al. 2015), in estimating the potentiality of reserves (Weszkalnys 2015), and in addressing long-term ecological effects. For instance, numerous scholars have critiqued the conduct and content of Environmental Impact Assessments (Bedi 2013; Hironaka 2002; Nakamura 2008; Corvellec & Boholm 2008; Galbraith et al. 2007), and have argued that they are a form of corporate science, designed to present future ecological risks as manageable (Kirsch 2014). Displaying the intersections between financial projections and social and ecological time horizons, capital-intensive and polluting extractive industries also raise additional issues of future financial liabilities for project clean-up.

 

While prediction attempts to render material, economic, and social worlds governable, scholarship increasingly recognizes the importance of considering the disruptive agency of the material and more-than-human world, with regard to extraction as well as society and science more broadly (Latour 2000, 2005; Barry 2013; Bakker & Bridge 2006). In particular, geological timescales often defy scientific knowledge production (Duvall 2011). Thus, it is important to consider the divergent timescales at which extraction operates, the ways in which projections and predictions about the future are folded into the present of negotiations and operations, and how differently positioned actors act upon and contest these projections.

In this session, we are interested in papers that explore how temporality shapes the politics of resource extraction, broadly conceived, in the forms of mining, logging, biofuels, and other commodified nonhuman materials. Explorations of temporality could include examinations of affective and cultural politics, resistance and social movement strategies, environmental governance, industry dynamics and profits, or the calculation and measurement of future ecological impacts. We particularly welcome papers that engage both empirically and theoretically with how extractive industries are shaped by time and how different social actors and institutions make sense of the future time horizons and past legacies of extraction.

 

Potential topics and questions for papers:

  • Tactics of delay: What are new and emerging tactics and strategies that activists and communities are using to delay, slow-down and obstruct extractive projects?

  • Nostalgia, hope, fear, and future imaginaries around resource extraction: What are the future and past imaginaries mobilized by resource extraction? How do industry, government and social movements construct visions of the future and memories of the past related to socio-ecological and economic impacts of extraction? How are these contested and shaped by power?

  • Measurement, calculation and assessment of future environmental and economic impacts: What tools, techniques and knowledges are used to assess and measure future impacts?

  • Engagement with timescales of resource materiality: How does extraction interact with timescales of resource formation and recovery? How are these temporal gaps represented through Environmental Impact Assessment, or mitigated?

  • Financialization of natural resources: Through what processes is the nonhuman world converted into discrete “resources” and into profit? How does finance intersect with the natural world through extractive projects? How does speculation and uncertain fluctuating global prices create opportunities or challenges for extractive capitalism?

  • Reflections on research methodologies and dilemmas amid extractive temporalities (e.g. Jenkins et al. 2015): What are some of the difficulties or dilemmas of conducting research on extractive projects? How should researchers engage with long-term negotiations and future projections?

 

Please submit a title, abstract of 300 words, and short bio for consideration in the session, to both Ashley Fent (ashleyfent@ucla.edu) and Erik Kojola (kojol002@umn.edu) by November 1st. We will notify participants by November 15th, leaving sufficient time to register for the conference by December 1st.

 

References

Bakker, Karen, and Gavin Bridge. 2006. “Material Worlds? Resource Geographies and the ‘Matter of Nature.’” Progress in Human Geography 30 (1): 5–27.

Barry, Andrew. 2013. Material Politics: Disputes Along the Pipeline. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Bedi, Heather P. 2013. “Environmental Mis-Assessment, Development and Mining in Orissa, India.” Development and Change 44 (1): 101–23.

Corvellec, Hervé, and Asa Boholm. 2008. “The Risk/no-Risk Rhetoric of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA): The Case of Offshore Wind Farms in Sweden.” Local Environment: The International Journal of Justice and Sustainability 13 (7): 627–40.

Duvall, Chris. 2011. “Ferricrete, Forests, and Temporal Scale in the Production of Colonial Science in Africa.” In Knowing Nature: Conversations at the Intersection of Political Ecology and Science Studies, edited by Mara J. Goldman, Paul Nadasdy, and Matthew D. Turner, 113–27. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Ferguson, James. 1999. Expectations of Modernity. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Galbraith, Lindsay, Ben Bradshaw, and Murray B. Rutherford. 2007. “Towards a New Supraregulatory Approach to Environmental Assessment in Northern Canada.” Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal 25 (1): 27–41.

Golub, Alex. 2014. Leviathans at the Gold Mine: Creating Indigenous and Corporate Actors in Papua New Guinea. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Hironaka, A. 2002. “The Globalization of Environmental Protection: The Case of Environmental Impact Assessment.” International Journal of Comparative Sociology 43 (1): 65–78.

Jenkins, Jeffrey, Karie Boone, Kai Bosworth, Jessi Lehman, and Thomas Loder. 2015. “Boom and Bust Methodology: Opportunities and Challenges with Conducting Research at Sites of Resource Extraction.” The Extractive Industries and Society 2 (4): 680–82.

Kirsch, Stuart. 2014. Mining Capitalism: The Relationship between Corporations and Their Critics. Oakland, CA: University of California Press.

Latour, Bruno. 2005. Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Vol. 7. New York: Oxford University Press.

Latour, Bruno. 2000. “When Things Strike Back: A Possible Contribution of ‘Science Studies’ to the Social Sciences.” British Journal of Sociology 51 (1): 107–23.

Li, Fabiana. 2015. Unearthing Conflict: Corporate Mining, Activism, and Expertise in Peru. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Nakamura, Naohiro. 2008. “An ‘Effective’ Involvement of Indigenous People in Environmental Impact Assessment: The Cultural Impact Assessment of the Saru River Region, Japan.” Australian Geographer 39 (4): 427–44.

Salles Pereira dos Santos, Rodrigo, and Bruno Milanez. 2015. “The Global Production Network for Iron Ore: Materiality, Corporate Strategies, and Social Contestation in Brazil.” The Extractive Industries and Society 2 (4): 756–65.

Smith, James H. 2011. “Tantalus in the Digital Age: Coltan Ore, Temporal Dispossession, and ‘movement’ in the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.” American Ethnologist 38 (1): 17–35.

Weszkalnys, Gisa. 2015. “Geology, Potentiality, Speculation: On the Indeterminacy of First Oil.” Cultural Anthropology 30 (4): 611–39.

Weszkalnys, Gisa. 2008. “Hope & Oil: Expectations in São Tomé E Príncipe.” Review of African Political Economy 35 (117): 473–82.

Weszkalnys, Gisa. 2014. “Anticipating Oil: The Temporal Politics of a Disaster Yet to Come.” The Sociological Review 62 (1_suppl): 211–35.

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