EXALT Podcast: Popularising research on extractivism and its alternatives

From large-scale mining, to eco-cultural pluralism, and harmful forms of conservation, the EXALT Podcast offers listeners, activists, and academics a space to explore and discuss the multiple ways extractivism shapes our world today and the possibilities for alternatives.

The EXALT Podcast celebrated its one year anniversary last month on October the 30th, with two new episodes. The first episode hosted a discussion with an Academy Research Fellow and Associate Professor of Global Development Studies Markus Kröger on the best ways to push for change in contexts of extractivist and destructive projects. During the discussion, Kröger shared some of his stories of being a researcher on the frontlines of mining resistance in places such as Brazil and India. In the second episode the two hosts of the podcast Christopher Chagnon and Sophia Hagolani-Albov sat down to discuss and look back on the year, the discussions with their guests and what the season two of EXALT podcast will hold.

Chagnon and Hagolani-Albov, both of who are PhD-researchers at the University of Helsinki (Chagnon in Global Development Studies and Hagolani-Albov in the Doctoral programme for Interdisciplinary Environmental Sciences, DENVI) started the podcast a year ago, as part of a larger research initiative The Global Extractivisms and Alternatives Initiative (EXALT). One of the aims of EXALT is to contribute to, expand, and deepen the discussions and understanding around extractivism and the transformative alternatives to it. For Chagnon and Hagolani-Albov, the podcast is a way of doing this. As Chagnon says, “podcasts are a great way to share knowledge and experiences, especially to a broader audience outside the academic sphere.” This is especially important with issues which are intertwined with almost everyone’s lives (as extractivism is) but poorly understood outside of, or even within, academia. Chagnon continues, that the podcast enables them and their guests to show the breadth and depth of extractivisms, and the wide-scale impacts they have on people, systems, the environment, and the whole globe.

The guests of the podcast have come from academia, activism, and lived experience, with the academic guests representing all career-levels, from PhD students to professors. The podcast has covered a wide variety of subjects in its monthly episodes. The recent episodes have for example hosted discussions on large-scale land leasing and displacement in Ethiopia (with University lecturer Gutu Olana Wayessa); Data colonialism and digital extractivisms (with professors Nick Couldry and Ulises Ali Mejías); environmental and social justice in frontier regions of Central America (with professor Anja Nygren); and the connections and disconnections of people with their food systems (with PhD researchers Rachel Mazac and Will LaFleur). Part of the reason why the podcast covers such a wide range of subjects is because extractivism and extractivist practises constitute a core feature of the current world-system, and thus permeate processes and structures all over the world, as Chagnon argues. He continues by saying that talking with people who are working on alternatives, and resisting extractivism, also helps to bring together experiences, which can spark thoughts and cooperation on how to further resistance. 

During a time of multiple overlapping global crises, discussions such as the ones had on the podcast are extremely important. According to Chagnon, because “the current crises hit at global, regional, and local levels, and play out in numerous, interlocked ways,-- we need to be able to take the discussions and actions into the popular sphere beyond just academia.” Chagnon continues by saying that some of the benefits of having the lens of extractivism, is that it hones in on the destructive aspects of capitalism and modernity, but is not unique only  to capitalism, which can help to reframe the popular discussion (and actions) on areas of commonality. It is therefore important to show through mediums, such as the EXALT podcast, that the unsustainability and destructiveness of currently dominant ways of being affect everyone. Chagnon concludes by saying that admittedly, resistance can sometimes seem daunting (futile, even), but there are so many ways to resist and find alternatives, and work together to put pressure for change.

About the hosts:

Christopher Chagnon is a doctoral researcher in Global Development Studies, focusing on Chinese investment policy in Africa. He has lived in Finland since the autumn of 2018 and previously lived for many years in Italy, the UK, Saudi Arabia, and China. He joined the EXALT Initiative because of his interest in digital forms of extractivism.

Sophia Hagolani-Albov is in the final year of her doctorate in the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry. Her research addresses sense of place, locality, and food consumer geographic imaginaries. She has been living and working in Finland for the last 6 years. She is deeply interested in the concept of intellectual extractivism and engages with a slow scientific practice (think slow food, but science).

About EXALT:

The Global Extractivisms and Alternatives Initiative (EXALT) is an international network of scholars and activists centered around collaborative knowledge-creation around the current global crises most of which stem from extractivist policies and practices. EXALT draws together diverse critical analyses of global extractivisms and sustainable alternatives pursued in both theory and practice. The EXALT podcast is an important part of the initiative in communicating and popularizing knowledge on extractivisms and alternatives, while giving voice to people striving to provide better understanding of our world in crisis. 

Follow EXALT on Facebook and Twitter.

Visit EXALT’s website to read more about the podcast and the initiative.