WORLD ANTHROPOLOGICAL UNION

CONGRESS 2024​

SELECTED PANEL

( pn11 )

Researching Alternatives to Extractivism Otherwise: Ways of Being, Knowing and Doing Alongside the (sub)Surface in Africa and Beyond

Organizers

    Angela Kronenburg García

    Netherlands

    UCLouvain, University Eduardo Mondlane

    Face to Face/ On Site - Presence

    Carla Braga

    Mozambique

    University Eduardo Mondlane

    Face to Face/ On Site - Presence

    Elisio Jossias

    Mozambique

    Eduardo Mondlane University

    Face to Face/ On Site - Presence

IUAES Affiliation: Anthropology and the Environment

Keywords:

extractivism, alternatives, epistemic extractivism, (sub)surface, Africa

Abstract:

Africa is currently a hotspot of extractivism (Pereira and Tsikata 2021), that is, the “resource-making process” (Richardson and Weszkalnys 2014) whereby materials or substances extracted (or produced) from the earth become wealth – “natural resources” – and are channelled away from the people closest to, and negatively affected by, extractive activities, while the rural ecologies and environments from which they have been separated are left behind scarred and often degraded and polluted. Although extractivism is generally associated with mining and oil and gas extraction, it can also involve resources extracted through agriculture, forestry and fishing, and even more intangible ones like emission rights (Bruna 2022) and knowledge (see below). Extractivism dominates most African economies (Greco 2020), which, reminiscent of colonial times, is driven primarily by the export of raw materials, and underpins mainstream narratives and imaginaries of modernity and “development”. National reforms (e.g., liberalisation of mining legislation) as well as global developments (e.g., the rush for “green minerals”, the search for alternative natural-gas sources in light of the sanctions against Russia), are likely to increase corporate interest in Africa’s “abundant” natural resources and deepen extractivism even further. Africa’s natural resource wealth evokes the promise of rapid economic growth, a framing that yields enormous discursive power in what is still the poorest continent in the world. However, despite expectations of “trickle down” effects, macroeconomic developments appear to be disconnected from most people, particularly those living in the rural areas where most extractivist activities take place, whose lives and livelihoods remain characterised by high levels of poverty, particularly among women. This panel seeks to shift attention away from extractivist logics and extractive-based development models towards alternative forms of relating to the earth, towards fostering robust rural livelihoods and ecologies and towards more creative ways of imagining more-than-human futures. Which ways of knowing, being and doing otherwise in relation to the (sub)surface and its resources might be obscured, damaged or transformed, by the dominance of extractivism? How are imaginations of what constitutes a “good life” influenced by practices and discourses associated with western modernity and “development”? We invite conceptual and empirical papers on alternatives that move beyond “surface levels” to include analyses of relations with the subterranean, the subsoil and the underground (e.g., Luning 2021). We also welcome submissions that discuss alternatives to what has been called “epistemic extractivism” (Grosfoguel 2020) or “cognitive extractivism” (Simpson in de Sousa Santos 2018) in academic and intellectual practice. What role does co-creation (among academics from different disciplines, from the global north and south) play in anthropological knowledge production? Which practices foster scholarly collaboration in ways that do not reproduce existing inequalities? How can we envisage research that challenges epistemic extractivism in its many forms and guises, and unsettles the divide and hierarchization between a knowing subject and the object to be known and written about? Finally, although we welcome papers from all-over the world, we are especially keen on receiving reflections on the possibilities and challenges of imagining alternatives to extractivism from and with Africa.