CfP POLLEN20 – Subjectivity at the extractive frontier: power, meaning and possibility

(cross-posted from the critical geography forum list)

Organizers: Tomas Frederiksen and Judith Verweijen

Call for abstracts for Third Biennial Conference of the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN), 24-26 June 2020, Brighton, UK

Contemporary forms of capitalism contribute to the formation of new political and economic subjects, forms of political reason and governmental rationalities (Brown, 2015, p. 51; see also: Butler & Athanasiou, 2013; Elyachar, 2005; Hodkinson, 2012, Ong, 2006). This panel aims to analyse how different subjectivities emerge and evolve in relation to extractive companies (understood broadly), and how they facilitate or hamper their operations by inducing self-regulation or ‘counter-conduct’ (Foucault, 2004).

Extractive industries reshape people’s lifeworlds, identities and political possibilities through a range of techniques and processes, both intentional and unintentional, linear and nonlinear. These include ‘interpellating’ people, and shaping their ‘techniques of the self’ (Foucault, 1984; Althusser, 2001), which has important effects on how power around extractive sites is generated and exercised. Emerging literatures on ‘political reactions from above’, ‘corporate counterinsurgency’ and ‘tactics of dispossession’ have begun to examine the technologies and techniques of power drawn upon by extractive companies and allied political actors to ‘stabilize’ areas of resources extraction (e.g. Dunlap, 2018; Dunlap and Brock, 2018; Frederiksen and Himley, 2019; Geenen and Verweijen, 2017).  In this panel, we wish to advance this discussion through consideration of the ways in which extractive industries shape the subjectivities of those who are involved in and live near their operations.

Political ecology has a history of engaging with questions of subjectivity and governmentality, but these debates have often been focussed on areas of forestry (e.g. Agrawal 2005), development (e.g. Li 2005) and coloniality/postcoloniality (e.g. Wainwright 2008). In this session we wish to expand this discussion to explore the extractive industries. We welcome work that draws on the diverse streams of thought around subjectivity such as Althusser, Beck, Butler, Foucault, Lacan, Mbembe and Rose or work that explores subjectivities largely empirically. 

We invite papers that explore questions such as: 

  • How do extractive industries shape different processes of subject formation such as risk distribution, struggle, labour, techniques of discipline, dispossession and transforming lifeworlds?
  • How do these subjectivities foster or hamper extractive operations?  What forms of subjectivity and subject creation work to frame and contest injustice?
  • What biopolitical and necropolitical regimes are at play in extractive areas? How have they evolved historically and what role do subjectivities play within these regimes?  
  • How are the logics and micro-practices of power around extractive sites rooted in former colonized spaces, drawing on and reproducing colonial subjectivities and technologies of power?
  • What are the methodological challenges and opportunities for studying subjectivities around extractive sites? How can we best analyse capillary and complex forms of power with dispersed effects? 

Please send abstracts of no more that 250 words to tomas.frederiksen@manchester.ac.uk and j.verweijen@sheffield.ac.uk by Monday 21 October 2019. We expect to communicate decisions on which papers are accepted by Friday 25 October 2019. After the conference, we will explore a journal special issue. 

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