A conference for researchers and practitioners with an interest in multidisciplinary approaches to exclusionary practices in resource extraction.

19-20 October 2017, School of Geography and the Environment and St Antony's College, University of Oxford

Call for papers
Sino-Tajik coal mine in the Fann Mountains, Tajikistan, 2014 (Negar Elodie Behzadi)

Sino-Tajik coal mine in the Fann Mountains, Tajikistan, 2014 (Negar Elodie Behzadi)

Introduction

This conference aims to (re)examine the types and forms of exclusion that continue to be generated as a result of resource extraction or have emerged more recently as a result of new industry practices. In addition, investigation of informal activities, which often emerge as a consequence of large-scale projects, will make visible an often-overlooked area of academic study. A focus will be placed on identifying potential pathways towards new inclusionary and collective forms of resource governance. Our objective is to explore how multidisciplinary perspectives can improve the understanding of these exclusion(s), their (re)production, and their contestation, thereby opening a conversation between academics and practitioners on new possibilities for inclusion.

For this purpose, the conference will raise the following questions:

  1. Who and what gets excluded from the production of knowledge and the governance of resource extraction at different stages of resource projects?
  2. How can communication across industry, civil society, government, and academia be improved?
  3. What can be learned about exclusion from the experiences in informal mining?
  4. How can we rethink and engage with inclusion in academia and beyond in order to respond to different forms of exclusion by utilizing innovative and novel research methodologies?

The conference aims to bring together around 50 participants - academics at different levels of their career and practitioners (civil society representatives, journalists, government and industry representatives).

Open pit Sino-Tajik coal mine in the Fann Mountains, Tajikistan, 2014 (Negar Elodie Behzadi)

Open pit Sino-Tajik coal mine in the Fann Mountains, Tajikistan, 2014 (Negar Elodie Behzadi)

Call for abstracts

If interested in presenting at the conference, please submit an abstract of your presentation or proposed contribution and suggest which of the sessions below (A-G) you want to take part in.

Abstracts should not be more than 200 words and should be sent to one of the conference organizers:

The conference is open to researchers and those with an interest in exclusionary practices in resources extraction at all career levels and from all fields. Applications from Indigenous scholars or activists and residents in resources-extracting regions are especially encouraged.

Please submit your abstract no later than 1 August 2017.

Conference Sessions

A) New political ecologies

Political ecology has, since its emergence in the 1980s1, revealed the political nature of environmental injustices related to natural resource extraction. It has, in particular, unravelled structural exclusions produced through extractive projects. Over time, the field of political ecology has, however, experienced significant transformations in terms of scope and objectives as a result of growing conversations with other bodies of literature, as well as new contemporary socio-environmental challenges2. With the post-structural turn, theoretical concerns have switched from politico-economic structures of exclusion to new definitions of the political, including a focus on environmental identities. More recently, attempts to refocus debates on materiality have also opened new research paths3. This panel will examine how new political ecologies have been used in research on natural resource extraction at the same time as it invites consideration of how it can be supplemented with insights from across development, anthropology, and geography. It also interrogates how such theoretical concerns can be communicated and translated for applications beyond academia.

B) Feminist and postcolonial approaches to resource extraction

Feminist and postcolonial analyses of resource projects have drawn attention to the neo-colonial ethics that underlie such activities and revealed the (re)production of exclusionary practices at the intersection of gender, race, class, ethnicity, ability, and citizenship4. This section draws on recent concerns with feminism, postcoloniality, and decoloniality in the field of resource extraction to unearth subjugated and exclusionary knowledge, and use the margins as a site of epistemic privilege in order to: first, observe the exclusions produced by resource extraction activities; and second, document everyday forms of resistance by affected actors. It invites participants to observe exclusion/resistance and inclusion through a postcolonial/feminist framework attentive to questions of language and discourse, as well as lived experiences.

C) Local involvement in knowledge production and decision-making

Oil, gas, and mining projects have profound local impacts, and while international agreements, such as the Aarhus Convention5 and ILO Convention 1696, stipulate that affected communities, such as indigenous groups and other land-users, have a right to participate in decision-making procedures, actual practice on the ground often falls short of established 'best practice principles'7. This session will explore how certain forms of knowledge are produced and gain the epistemic authority to influence procedures, regulations, and decisions, question whether Social and Environmental Impact Assessments are appropriate tools to include the voices and knowledge of different stakeholders, and take a closer look at the exclusion of human and non-human actors from the decision-making process. A particular focus will be placed on exploring alternative methods of citizen science, public involvement, and activist research in the decision-making phase of hydrocarbon and mining projects.

D) Toward better communication: Roundtable discussion with representatives from the state, industry, civil society, and academia

During the different stages in the life cycle of an oil, gas, or mining project, diverse interests regularly clash - often with far-reaching consequences for stakeholders and/or the overall project. Certain voices are thereby excluded from the debate either intentionally or by accident. Even when communication does take place, it is often non-effective. This session will bring together industry and state representatives, academics, and activists with the aim of facilitating a productive discussion seeking to identify barriers to meaningful communication among stakeholders, while placing a clear focus on finding solutions to recurring problems.

E) New approaches to industry-community interactions during and after the production phase: Highlighting experiences crossing the bridge between academia and activism/consulting

From environmental destruction and violence in the Niger Delta, to the lasting social impacts of the Exxon Valdez tanker accident, and conflicts over oil activities on indigenous land in the Amazon, disruptions caused by the extractive industry in local communities have been documented across the globe8. At the same time, increased awareness among consumers, new corporate social responsibility (CSR) and transparency initiatives, companies' recognition of the potential benefits of having a 'social license to operate', and Impact and Benefit Agreements are purported to have the potential to counter negative impacts and create local benefits.9 However, interactions between communities and companies continue to be characterized by conflict and violence in many cases and local communities often struggle to secure positive outcomes from resource development. With the aim of exploring how effective corporate social and environmental management could be achieved in current and future projects, this session seeks to engage with new approaches to interactions between the extractive industry and local communities in particular during and after the phase of production.

F) Informal mining - Making visible the invisible

Although informal mining activities provide livelihoods for millions of poor people in mineral rich developing countries, they remain an under-researched area in resource management.10 Commonly associated with precariousness and illegality, the poverty reduction effects of these activities, that often emerge within and around larger extractive projects, has, however, been acknowledged.11 Ethnographic research in different settings has also focused on the lived experiences of miners and revealed the sometimes-contested nature of informal mining activities in different settings.12 This panel proposes to raise attention to these ambivalent experiences of informal mining with a focus on their simultaneously exclusionary and inclusionary nature. In particular, it questions which forms of exclusions are (re)produced through these activities as well as it interrogates how contestation(s) to the exclusions produced by larger mining projects are articulated through involvement in informal mining.

G) Innovative methodologies for researching exclusion/inclusion and extraction

Challenges posed by changes in the extractives industries as well as new directions in the conceptual study of extraction are inseparable from changes in methodologies of study.13 Increasingly, these changes demand the examination of the extractive aspects of methodology itself. Reacting to feminist and postcolonial critiques, reflexivity and activism increasingly influence study design.14 Emphasizing the materiality of resources15, to reflect a more-than-human focus, has led to new ways of collecting data and the analysis of extraction projects and their wider impact. This panel considers extractive methodologies and methods to study extraction, including but not limited to: multi-sited ethnography, mapping, digital analysis, walking, photography, film, and sketching.

Extraction of gold by cyanidation at a mine near Kwekwe, Zimbabwe (Ralph Doering)

Extraction of gold by cyanidation at a mine near Kwekwe, Zimbabwe (Ralph Doering)

Programme

Keynote: Professor Gavin Bridge

Programme forthcoming

Registration and bursaries

Registration (free of charge) will open in late August.

Limited bursaries for travel and accommodation may be available. Please contact the conference organizers.

Accommodation

Information forthcoming.

Northern Sakhalin, Russia, 2009, Gazprom oil facilities located near the traditional place of residence of the Uilta and the Ewenki peoples (both are indigenous groups involved in reindeer herding and fishing). (Nadezhda Mamontova)

Northern Sakhalin, Russia, 2009, Gazprom oil facilities located near the traditional place of residence of the Uilta and the Ewenki peoples (both are indigenous groups involved in reindeer herding and fishing). (Nadezhda Mamontova)

How to find us

Information forthcoming.

For further queries please contact the Conference Team:

Advisory Board

Ariell Ahearn-Ligham (SoGE, Oxford), Patricia Daley (SoGE, Oxford), Kärg Kama (SoGE, Oxford), Caitlin McElroy (Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, Oxford), Richard Powell (Scott Polar Research Institute and Department of Geography, Cambridge), David Pratten (Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Oxford)

ESRC St Antony's College, Oxford School of Geography and the Environment University of Oxford

1 For the origins of political ecology, see:

  • Blaikie, P. (1985) The Political Economy of Soil Erosion in Developing Countries. London; New York: Longman.
  • Watts, M.J. (1983a) On the poverty of theory: Natural hazards research in context. In, Hewitt, K. (ed.) Interpretations of Calamity: From the Viewpoint of Human Ecology. Boston: Allen & Unwin, pp. 231-262.

2 For a more recent review of political ecology, see:

  • Perreault, T., Bridge, G., Mc Carthy, J. (2015) The Routledge Handbook of Political Ecology, Routledge, New York.
  • Peet, R. and Watts, M.J. (eds) (2004) Liberation Ecologies (2nd edition). Routledge. (first edition 1996).

3 Bakker, K. and Bridge, G. (2006) Material worlds? Resource geographies and the 'matter of nature'. Progress in Human Geography 30(1): 5-27.

4 Murrey, A. (2016) Slow dissent and the emotional geographies of resistance. Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography, 37(2): 224-248.

5 UNECE (25 June 1998) Convention on access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters. Accessed 13 Jan 2017.

6 ILO (5 Sep 1991) C169 - Indigenous and tribal peoples convention, 1989 (No. 169). Accessed 13 Jan 2017.

7 See:

  • Cooke, B. and Kothari, U. (eds.) (2001) Participation: The new tyranny? London and New York: Zed Books.
  • O'Faircheallaigh, C. and Corbett, T. (2005) Indigenous participation in environmental management of mining projects: The role of negotiated agreements. Environmental Politics, 14(5): 629-647.
  • O'Faircheallaigh, C. (2007) Environmental agreements, EIA follow-up and aboriginal participation in environmental management: The Canadian experience. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 27(4): 319-342.
  • Nuttall, M. (2012) The Isukasia iron ore mine controversy: Extractive industries and public consultation in Greenland. Nordia Geographical Publications, 41(5): 23-34.

8 See, for instance:

  • Orta-Martínez, M. and Finer, M. (2010) Oil frontiers and indigenous resistance in the Peruvian Amazon. Ecological Economics, 70(2): 207-218.
  • O'Rourke, D. and Connolly, S. (2003) Just oil? The distribution of environmental and social impacts of oil production and consumption. Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 28: 587-617.
  • Ritchie, L. (2012) Individual Stress, collective trauma, and social capital in the wake of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Sociological Inquiry, 82(2): 187-211.
  • Watts, M. (2001) Petro-violence: Community, extraction, and political ecology of a mythic commodity. In, Peluso, N. and Watts, M. (eds.) Violent Environments. Ithaka, London: Cornell University Press, pp 189-212.

9 For descriptions and critical examinations, see, for instance:

  • O'Faircheallaigh, C. (2013) Community development agreements in the mining industry: an emerging global phenomenon. Community Development, 44(2): 222-238.
  • Owen, J. and Kemp, D. (2013) Social licence and mining: A critical perspective. Resources Policy, 38(1): 29-35.
  • Watts, M. (2005) Righteous oil? Human rights, the oil complex, and corporate social responsibility. Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 30: 373-407.

10 Lahiri-Dutt, K. (2004) Informality in mineral resource management in Asia: Raising questions relating to community economies and sustainable development. Natural Resources Forum, 28(2): 123-132.

11 Ibid.

12 For ethnographies of informal mining, see for instance:

  • Bryceson, D.F. et al. (2014) Mining and Social Transformation in Africa: mineralizing and democratizing trends in artisanal production. New York: Routledge.
  • Fisher, E. (2007) Occupying the margins: Labour integration and social exclusion in artisanal mining in Tanzania. Development and Change, 38(4): 735-760.
  • Hilson, G. (2010) "Once a miner, always a miner": Poverty and livelihood diversification in Akwatia, Ghana. Journal of Rural Studies, 26(3): 296-307.
  • Lahiri-Dutt, K. (2012) Digging women: towards a new agenda for feminist critiques of mining. Gender, Place & Culture, 19(2): 193-212.

13 Jenkins, J., Boone, K., Bosworth, K., Lehman, J. and Loder, T. (2015) Boom and Bust Methodology: Opportunities and challenges with conducting research at sites of resource extraction. Extractive Industries and Society, 2(4): 680-682.

14 Sawyer, S. (2004) Crude Chronicles: Indigenous politics, multinational oil, and neoliberalism in Ecuador. Durham, London: Duke University Press.

15 Richardson, T. and Weszkalnys, G. (2014) Resource materialities. Anthropological Quarterly, 87(1): 5-30.