Around the globe, conflict in relation to extraction, energy, and infrastructure has escalated—and it will only continue to do so in a rapidly warming and politically unstable world. Situated at the frontiers of capitalism’s relentless expansion, mining and oil projects are sites of dispossession and contamination. My research asks under what conditions ― and with what consequences ― resource extraction becomes the site of political conflict. Resources such as minerals or oil are implicated in the construction of political-economic orders ― states, democracies, and nations ― and serve as focal points for social resistance.
My book, Resource Radicals: From Petro-Nationalism to Post-extractivism in Ecuador (under contract at Duke University Press), explores resource politics in Ecuador. In the heat of political struggle, social movement activists craft critiques of extraction and enact processes of resistance. I call these resource radicalisms, and show how they shape the strategies, identities, and interests of state and movement actors alike. Based on fifteen months of ethnographic and archival fieldwork, I trace resource radicalisms from the neoliberal period to the present. Resource Radicals analyzes resource politics as an expansive and vibrant field of contention, in which social movements are key protagonists in shaping the political terrain.
I am in currently Chile conducting fieldwork on a new project entitled Lithium Life: On the Extractive Frontiers of the Renewable Energy Transition. Lithium is an input for rechargeable batteries, the use of which is rapidly spreading from personal electronics to the growing electric car market to energy storage for renewable grids that rely on intermittent solar or wind power. Over half of the world’s lithium reserves are concentrated in South America’s “lithium triangle”: the salt flats that span Chile, Argentina and Bolivia. Lithium extraction is energy- and water-intensive—with implications for local ecosystems and livelihoods. My project traces the supply chain of electrification and renewable grids, examining complex politics and socio-environmental impacts across sites and scales.