CALL FOR PAPERS: Resource Entanglements: Disparate Narratives on Natural Resource Extraction in Latin America

Thursday 7 January 2016

International Conference
Institute of Latin American Studies (ILAS), University of London

20th May 2016

Growing scholarly interest in fossil fuel economies, corporate exploitation of mining profits, the environmental impact of resource extraction, and the development of accompanying infrastructure has emerged in recent years in response to these intersecting and expanding extractive activities. Latin America, in particular, has been the target of many of these debates due to the unyielding exploitation of its rich and varied resources: from timber and coca, to oil and gold. It is widely accepted that the extraction of resources in the region has had an immense impact on the environment and the vulnerable populations who inhabit resource-rich territories, resulting in a surge of accounts from both academic and non-academic circles that offer dystopian narratives of exploitation, corruption, and the omnipotence of corporate power. Alongside these narratives are tales of fervent resistance to unauthorised encroachment, protests by indigenous communities, and the promotion of sustainability from local advocacy groups. Yet, viewpoints that go beyond the government-corporation-community triad, including perspectives from actors who do not actively oppose such activities, remain largely untold.

This one-day workshop will explore extractive economies in Latin America by focusing on two understudied dimensions of the resource-extraction paradigm:

  1. the need to tease out the nuances of local level conflict and competing motivations inherent in extractive enterprises, and 
  2. the absence of any discernable conflict. 
     

​These two objectives seek to shed light on fundamental questions about the complex and subtle interplay between local imaginaries, moral ambiguities, cultural exigencies and wider economic and political factors that emerge in relation to both large- and small-scale resource exploitation. In so doing, the workshop will provide a more holistic account of natural resources and extractive activities, from so-called ‘artisanal’ mining and jobs in the oil industry, to agro-business and cocaine production. The one-day event will consist of a keynote address and sessions that explore the nuances of extraction-related conflicts, gradually moving towards an exploration of how individuals and communities engage directly with and make sense of the resources themselves.

We encourage papers that wish to uncover alternative narratives on resource extraction and welcome submissions that address one or more of the following questions:

  • What are the multifaceted perspectives and contrasting motivations that emerge around resource extraction?
  • How do encounters with natural and extractive resources shape local imaginaries of citizenship and ethics, but equally notions of opportunity, sociality and autonomy?
  • How do nuanced accounts of local experiences reconfigure our understanding of extraction, environmentalism and power?
  • How do customary knowledge practices and historical encounters with extractive economies feed into ideas of resource extraction in the present?
  • How do people adapt to extractive activities while negotiating with and mitigating the negative effects?
  • How does participation in extractive activities, and encounters with the materials themselves, influence transforming notions of value and the relationship between nature and society?
  • How are ideas of development localised to take into consideration kinship and cosmology rather than merely notions of environmentalism and injustice?

Abstracts of approximately 300 words should be emailed to the conference organisers Amy Penfield and Ainhoa Montoya BY 1st MARCH 2016.