History from Below: Extractivism, Geology, and Power

Panel Discussion with Angélica Maria Bernal, Nigel Clark, Gregory Cushman, Andrea Marston & Kiran Asher, November 18, 2020

Listen to the Audio Here

Human exploitation of the underground has been central to the unfolding climate and ecological emergency. Inseparable from empire-building, colonialism, and the rise of capitalism, extractions from the earth have expanded dramatically since the early modern era. Across the world, there have been unpredictable transformations in climate, landscapes, ecologies, affecting the lives of humans and nonhumans alike. In all this, however, the underground is not simply passive matter; human actions, to put it differently, are not the only force feeding these transformations. What kinds of stories, still untold, might we tell about human entanglements with the physical earth, and about geological agency and history? How might such inquiries help us to better comprehend and confront our contemporary planetary predicament?

This event was live on Zoom and recorded on Facebook, YouTube and SoundCloud.

The Presenters

Angélica Maria Bernal is Associate Professor of Political Sci­ence at UMass Amherst and faculty affiliate with the Center for Latin American, Latinx and Caribbean Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.  Her research and teaching focus on issues of popular power, constitutional change, decolonial theory and politics, and indigenous social movements and resistance in the Americas. Her first book Beyond Origins: Rethinking Founding in a Time of Constitutional Democracy (Oxford University Press, 2017) was named the 2018 Foundations of Political Theory First Book Award Honorable Mention by the American Political Science Association.  She is the editor of De La Exclusión a la Participación: Pueblos Indígenas y sus Derechos Colectivos en el Ecuador (Abya Yala Press, 2000) and a former and current Fulbright Fellow to Ecuador. Bringing together a hemispheric and comparative theory approach, her new project centers on emergent philosophies of nature and anticolonial resistance in indigenous struggles to fight against natural resources extraction in the Americas.

Nigel Clark is chair of human geography at Lancaster University, UK. He is the author of Inhuman Nature: Sociable Life on a Dynamic Planet (2011) and (with Bronislaw Szerszynski) Planetary Social Thought: The Anthropocene Challenge to the Social Sciences – due out later this year. He co-edited (with Kathryn Yusoff) a 2017 Theory, Culture & Society special issue on ‘Geosocial Formations and the Anthropocene’ and (with David Higgins and Tess Somervell) a 2020 special issue of Humanities on ‘Environmental Humanities Approaches to Climate Change’.  His current interests include pyrogeographies of the explosion, planetary reason and decolonization, and the paleogeography of care and compassion.   

Gregory Cushman, Associate Professor of International Environmental History, Kansas University 

Andrea Marston is an Assistant Professor of Geography at Rutgers University. Her research examines how the material and technoscientific worlds of natural resource governance – including minerals, land, and water – shape politics, economics, and the production of social difference. At present, she is working on a book that draws on primarily ethnographic research with subterranean tin miners to trace how the braided histories of geology, colonialism, and nationalism have animated recent political events in Bolivia. Her publications have appeared in The Journal of Peasant Studies, Political Geography, and Latin American Perspectives, among others, and her research has been supported by the American Council for Learned Societies, the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, and the Social Sciences and Research Council of Canada.

Kiran Asher (moderator) is Professor of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies at UMass Amherst. Full bio.

Recommended Readings

The Feinberg Family Distinguished Lecture Series is made possible thanks to the generosity of UMass Amherst history department alumnus Kenneth R. Feinberg ’67 and associates. The series is co-sponsored by more than 3 dozen university and community organizations.