Radical ways of studying extractivisms and alternatives

Radical ways of studying extractivisms and alternatives was a two-day event on methodologies organised by EXALT and Helsinki Institute for Social Sciences and Humanities (HSSH) at the University of Helsinki on the 25th and 26th of October. The event aimed to explore novel methodological approaches and analyses to study resistance against extractivism and environmental injustice, which challenge conventional ways of carrying out research within social sciences.
Keynote Speech: Gonzo Geography on the Extractive Frontier

What: Keynote Speech by Dr. Japhy Wilson, Lecturer in Human-Environment Interactions, Bangor University

When: Wednesday 25th of October 2023, 14.15-16.00 (Helsinki time, EEST) / 11.15-13.00 UTC.

Where: The recording can be found on EXALT's YouTube page

Commentators: Prof. Teivo Teivainen and Prof. Sarah Green.

In the late 1960s, the journalist Hunter S. Thompson and his friend, the radical Chicano lawyer Oscar Zeta Acosta, developed an experimental form of research and writing that came to be known as gonzo. Abandoning any pretence of journalistic objectivity, and based on direct participation in the subversive activities of its research subjects, gonzo is a methodology that seeks to grasp and convey the lived reality of extreme events, transgressive acts, and insurrectional situations. This approach has since been deployed by criminologists in the form of “edge ethnography,” but has rarely been applied in other disciplines. What might such a methodology reveal about the contested realities of natural resource frontiers, and the actual and imagined alternatives to extractive capital?

This speech explores these questions through a series of reflections on and excerpts from Dr. Wilson's deployment of gonzo-as-method in three extractive contexts: an uprising against the combined forces of multinational capital and a militarized state on an Ecuadorian oil frontier; a carnival celebration in the extractivist metropolis of Iquitos in the Peruvian Amazon; and an armed resistance to a violent police eviction of a landless people’s illegal settlement of privatized jungle on the outskirts of the same city. This speech suggests that the insights provided by full involvement in such events can disrupt certain dominant critical assumptions concerning the relationship between extractivism and resistance, the nature of the pluriverse, and the possibilities of radical transformation amidst the monstrous dynamics of cannibal capitalism.

Dr. Japhy Wilson is an interdisciplinary teacher and researcher working at the intersection of human geography and development studies. His research focuses on the spatial, ideological, and insurrectional dimensions of the political ecology of development in the urban Anthropocene. He address these themes through critical investigations of extractivist, infrastructural, and urbanizing megaprojects, and ethnographic explorations of the radical political possibilities that can emerge amidst the violence, failure, and contestation of such projects. He has conducted field research in Mexico, Uganda, Ghana, Ecuador, and Peru. His theoretical and methodological influences include historical geographical materialism, the psychoanalytic critique of ideology, gonzo journalism, surrealism, and psychogeography.  

Panel Discussion: Methodological approaches to the study of extractivisms and their transformative alternatives

What: Panel discussion on methodological approaches to the study of extractivisms and their transformative alternatives

When: On Thursday 26th of October, 10.00-12.00 (Helsinki time, EEST) / 7.00-9.00 UTC.

Where: The recording can be found on EXALT's YouTube page

Speakers: Sergio Sauer, Markus Kröger, Anja Nygren and Ksenija Hanaček

Research on global extractivisms and alternatives has expanded fast in the past few years, becoming a key research topic in several academic traditions. Extractivisms and their alternatives have thus been studied from many different methodological perspectives. This panel will discuss the different ways in which extractivisms and transformative alternatives have been studied, including varying methodological and onto-epistemic approaches and considerations.

The topics include both qualitative and quantitative methods, such as ethnographic approaches, Qualitative Comparative Analysis, participant observation, different types of field research and interviews, mapping, network analysis, and other methods. The goal is to foster further understanding across differing approaches on the complementarities, differences and similarities of varying methodological approaches to the study of extractivisms and alternatives.