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 (Duke University Press 2020), 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.
Brine to Batteries
The fate of the earth rests on a rapid transition to new energy sources. Who will control the global transition to renewable energy and how will it be organized? Who will benefit from new energy systems and who will bear their costs? Will the transition reinforce or reduce inequality? Answering such questions requires critical social science attuned to the co-constitution of energy systems and political-economic power. My current book project, Brine to Batteries: The Extractive Frontiers of the Global Energy Transition, explores the politics of the transition to renewable energy through the lens of one of its key technologies: lithium batteries. Energy systems—the material substrate of our collective existence—are terrains of political conflict. States and firms vie to control the emergent energy system. Activists, workers, and communities demand a voice in determining how this system is built. Based on multi-sited fieldwork following lithium’s global supply chains from the point of extraction in the Chilean desert, Brine to Batteries will be the first scholarly account of a rapidly-moving processes shaping the contours of the next energy system—and those of our planetary future.