Indigenous resistance, social movements

The illusion of participation; a comparative study of environmental injustice in Peru and Ethiopia

Adrian Gonzalez and David Brown

Cardiff University / Warwick University

Criminalization of anti-extraction movements in Ecuador: a gendered and collective perspective

Karolien van Teijlingen and Melissa Moreano

Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar

Theorizing the Plantationocene: Plants, Humans, and Activism in the West Papuan Oil Palm Nexus

Sophie Chao

The University of Sydney

Remediating and Caring for the Legacies of Extractivism in Northern Canada

Caitlynn Beckett

Memorial University, Canada

Literature, Extraction, and the Global South

Animesh Roy

St. Xavier’s College, India

Comments 35

  1. Welcome everybody to our panel on Indigenous resistance and social movements! We have five super interesting and inspiring presentations. Let’s go watch them all and have some good discussion and Q&A. I have some questions to all of them separately later, but would like to start off with one that is relevant to the presentations more generally.

    How does resistance, through participation, individualisation/collectivization, strategic use of multiplicity of meaning, challenging topdown remediation, or literature co-shape the meaning of extraction in your case/material for the group that you are interested in?

    1. Hello MichIel,

      Many thanks for your introductory question. In terms of our work, we see the meaning of extraction co-shaped and connected to participatory resistance. The use of social protest by local communities highlights the illusion or struggle for participation which rural indigenous communities face in different extractive and developmental contexts. I hope our paper indicates that it is not merely in extractive contexts that participatory problems are found. This in turn is about power; the state retains power over the way participation and decision-making is framed i.e. who participates? Who has the “final” say? Our presentation shows that certain groups (indigenous people) are disenfranchised from participating whilst the state retains final decision-making power. Resistance to extraction is borne out of this disenfranchisement. Indeed, the state has no interest in “hearing” from local people whose views are seen as inferior. Lastly, participatory resistance is also connected to wider struggles of misrecognition which indigenous people face e.g. over land and territorial rights. So extractive resistance is a strangle for participation, power, and recognition.

  2. Hi all!

    I’m Sophie Chao, presenting the video-talk on West Papua and the Plantationocene. I’m super excited to be part of this panel and discussion forum!

    Looking forward to watching all the presentations and to lively Q&A – and thanks for moderating Michiel!

    1. Wow, Sophie! This really blew me away. First, this is a beautiful presentation, perfectly executed. Well done! You have laid out an Indigenous civilian engagement model that I have never heard about before, but which is ideally situated for SITL interventions in AI design. I watched a few times to pull out all of the relevant points about ontologies and this sort of agroecological epistemology.

      As I listened to the descriptions of individual and cultural relations to oil palm, I kept thinking that these deconstructed narratives are extremely modern–perhaps even cutting edge–and would be right at home in a 4S meeting or STS publication. I was astonished by the ability of the individuals you interviewed to debias the artefacts of the palm oil industrial agricultural system. So that led me to wonder about the translation into English of some of these concepts, like “palm oil as a victim” and how the scientific name connects global communities. Can you tell me about some of your challenges and findings in framing and direct translation?

      1. Hi Merc,

        Thanks a lot for your kind words re the presentation!

        And thanks also for your insightful question. So much of my work has indeed been about learning how to best translate my interlocutors’ own theories about socio-environmental change and its impacts. Indeed, their way of thinking is incredibly complex and nuanced – not that we should be surprised about this of course! A curiosity about the world and our relationship to it is certainly not something that anthropologists like myself are interested in. In fact, I think it’s really important to think about theory as something that happens in the field, in order to move away from the highly problematic modus operandi of “ethnography comes from the global South, theory is produced in the global North”.

        In terms of translation, I tend to translate my interlocutors’ language directly from Indonesian or Marind. So, for instance, “oil palm is a victim” is a literal translation of the Indonesian “sawit itu korban”. The question of the scientific name is a really fascinating one – the African oil palm is known as Elaeis guineensis in Western scientific taxonomy, after ‘elaeis’ meaning ‘olive’ or ‘oily’ and ‘guineensis’, referring to African Guinea, where the plant is endemic. My interlocutors in the field were really fascinated by this taxonomic connection between African Guinea and New Guinea – both in terms of its peoples and ecologies. This was one of many instances where knowledge that I brought to the field was torqued and given meaning by Papuans in ways that I had not anticipated.

        Thanks again for your thoughtful questions Merc!


        1. My pleasure, Sophie. Can you further shed some insight into the sawit ontology, as you refer to it in your 2018 publication, as a consensus gathering exercise for the introduction of new technologies in society? Or is this stretching the concept too far?

    2. Hi Sophie, echoing Merc, I really enjoyed your presentation and found myself pausing the video many times to properly take in and think about the fascinating insights you offer. I’m interested in the differing conceptualisations of oil palm by Marind people who have a variety of physical relationships with the plant. You mentioned that Marind people when walking through plantations may touch the trunks, trying to understand their story. Is this the case with the Marind who work on plantations? Does the capitalist intervention of palm oil trees relating directly to individual income change the relation or conception of oil palm to those who are employed? If so, how do these Marind employees reconcile this with their friends and family who may not share this economic relationship to (or dependence on) oil palm?

      1. That’s a really great question. I have an article coming out on Marind plantation workers’ take on oil palm and its parasites and mutualists that you might enjoy. The gist is that many workers identify with native
        species that, like themselves, are displaced or dispossessed to make way for plantations and their
        primarily non-Papuan labor force and operators. On the other hand, parasites that undermine
        oil palm’s growth become figures of hope for Marind who conceive resistance to the state and
        corporations as the only legitimate path to self-determination. Meanwhile, species that entertain
        mutualistic relations with oil palm point to cooperation and accommodation as an alternative
        strategy of survival. Oil palm’s multispecies lifeworld thus complicates the characterization of
        industrial monocrops as ecologically impoverished landscapes engineered solely by and for
        humans. Attending to oil palm’s biological allies and foes as material-semiotic actors brings us
        instead to ask what species benefit from agribusiness expansion, which lives and deaths matter
        within plantation ecologies, and to whom. It also invites attention to the conflictual horizons of
        justice offered by interspecies resistance and collaboration in the Plantationocene for
        indigenous communities as they strive to reconcile their aspirations for survival and self-
        determination under entrenched regimes of race and capital. I’m giving an open talk on this topic for the University of Waikato on 30 July if you want to hear more ~ deets available here 🙂

  3. Hi everyone,
    I am Animesh Roy, presenting my video-talk on Literature, Extraction, and the Global South. I am very excited to participate in the conference

    1. Dear Animesh Roy,
      Thank you so much for your presentation, in which you touch upon some very interesting concepts derived from the books you discuss (particularly the idea of “displacement without moving” is fascinating!). The books you analyse clearly aim to denounce the continuation of colonial relations and the systematic silencing and invisibilizing of ´dispensible citizens´. Based on your research, I wanted to ask you what you think the potential of literature/non-fiction in transforming these realities could be, and whether you would encourage social scientists to use literature as to communicate the injustices they study.
      Thank you very much again!

      1. Dear Animesh, I also like the idea of ‘displacement without moving’. I couldn’t hear you so well, but you seem to be referring to Hedda Askland’s work, from whom I also have learned about it. Very interesting to see that return in your books!

  4. Remediating and Caring for the Legacies of Extractivism in Northern Canada

    Caitlynn Beckett’s account of extractivism in northern Canada was thoroughly informative, paced clearly, with a panoply of facts presented with admirable scholarly detachment. This apparent detachment effectively avoids emotive ideology while nevertheless revealing the power structures involved. So well done! Thank you for educating (and mobilising) us!
    Dr Steven Webster, Hon.Rsch.Fellow in Soc.Anthro and Maori Studies, Univ of Auckland, N.Z.

    1. Thank you very much for your presentation, Caitlynn. Although I would not agree with Steven’s observation about academic detachment, I was similarly intrigued by it. It is a powerful reminder of the disruptive nature of mine closure, of the perpetual nature of remediation and of the structural injustices these processes reinforce. I really liked your thinking on the ethics of remediation, and I wonder whether you could expand on how such ethics may involve / interact with existing ethics of care, community and conviviality present in the regions your study. In addition, I would like to ask you about the temporal dynamics of such ethics. As you rightfully state, the ethics of remediation may last for decades (even ages) but could you also reflect on when they should start? Shouldn’t they be an integral part of the very first explorations and feasibility studies of mining projects, and influence decisions throughout the exploitation phases? If so, how could this be done?
      Best Karolien

      1. Hello Karolien!

        Thank-you very much for your comments/questions. Rebecca Tsosie, who I was inspired by in her theorization of an ‘ethics of remediation’ notes that framings of contaminated spaces often negate or make invisible the many different kinds of relationships that can exist with contaminated spaces, and the many different forms of destruction that happen through extraction (colonial, gendered, spiritual etc.). In a similar way, remediation projects can make invisible the many different methods of care that are possible, needed and already occurring in such places (see for example, work by Sebastian Ureta or and Manuel Tironi and Rodriguez-Giralt). I hope that by framing remediation as an ethical obligation (to people, land and more-than-human), rather than only an engineering problem – more space can be given to these alternative methods of care and justice.

        In regards to temporality, and on a practical/policy-based note, I think that alternative narratives of what remediation means need to be incorporated as a part of the development/exploration of an extractive project. One possibility for this might be to include more robust remediation/reclamation planning in impact assessment processes – but there can be problems with how short term benefits are ‘weighed’ against long term impacts in such assessment processes. For example, in Canada, reclamation is framed as a ‘mitigation’ in impact assessment, and therefore portrayed as an improvement/tool, rather than a long-term challenge for monitoring and maintenance. In addition, the effectiveness of remediation/reclamation techniques cannot be evaluated in impact assessment, which generally occur only at the beginning of a development.

        I think what is key (although perhaps less practical), is re-imagining what is evaluated in licensing for exploration and development. In many cases, perpetual care (water treatment/containment) for such sites is inevitable (if they are approved), and the responsibilities for that perpetual care should be reflected in legal accountability and permitting processes.

        Thanks again for the discussion points 🙂

  5. I have some questions for Adrian Gonzalez and David Brown
    • Could you elaborate on the political ecology of voice by elaborating on how this idea explains how participation becomes just ‘informing’ or the other way around?
    • Would a deconstruction of ‘state’ be helpful for your analysis, as in, what actors’ interests are represented by the state and how do these actors use the state for their purposes?
    • Is Dunlap’s concept of counter-insurgency useful for your Political ecology of voice?


    1. Hello Michiel,

      I hope you found the talk interesting. Many thanks for your questions. Happy to provide answer to them below:

      1) The political ecology of voice makes clear that voice is an active action undertaken by people and organisations. So, in an inclusive and transparent participatory process using free, prior and informed consent, one would expect people to have a fully invested role in proceedings (though the challenge about who has the “final” say remains). However, the political ecology of voice in our case studies show that the state is closing down the space for participatory engagement. People are not active or informed participants; instead, they are merely informed about the prospect of an oil project or the extension of a REDD+ project. The result is that local vocal struggles for participation are forced to occur through alternative, often more radical actions. Whilst these can visibly “seen” by the state and wider media, they are often not “heard” and are either ignored or placated by the state.

      2) Yes, certainly that is a great idea. In our paper which this presentation was based on, we do allude to the values underpinning the liberal state, making clear that it adheres to racialised capitalism and extractivism, both of which have significant implications for alternative developmental agendas and wider struggle for indigenous land and territorial rights as well as cultural rights and distinct cosmologies which run counter to these values. I think we could certainly say more on the way in which extractive companies utilise the state for their own purposes; in Loreto as in other contexts like Nigeria, oil companies often become the “state” via the provision of electricity or local development projects. These rural state gaps enable these companies to have a great degree of power and control vis-à-vis local communities. As I’ve found in recent research, it can mean that local people are offered jobs in exchange for their silence over human rights abuses.

      3) Many thanks for the recommendation! It is something I have heard of used in relation to extractive companies explored too deeply. The concept of “green violence” also looks really fascinating and both would appear to be highly used for the political ecology of voice. One area of the framework I am interested in developing is the “response” to these vocal acts taken by the state and other stakeholders. Counterinsurgency would appear to be a crucial pillar in this elaboration.

      1. Thanks for the question Michiel. I would just add to what Adrian has outlined in response to qu 2 on the deconstruction of the state. I agree that this is a good idea and in the case of Ethiopia, the research involved drawing out the state’s developmental agenda and whose interests that supports and whose it excludes/marginalises and then considering how these dynamics play out in the context of Redd+/forest management in the country. Particularly looking at the marginalised and powerless forested communities. In the case of Redd+ though there are crucial additional layers of power through international actors and multilateral insitutions which need to be consudered, with their own interests and agendas. So through a multi scalar analysis, I analysed to what extent different actors involved in Redd+ processes in Ethiopia on international national and local levels of enquiry align or diverge in terms of underlying interests or values. As Adrian pointed out, thinking about notably dominant developmental discourses versus ‘alternative’ values, cultural rights and livelihoods.

      2. Thanks. I forgot to mention, but counter-insurgency is coming from Alexander Dunlap’s work.

  6. I have a question for Karolien van Teijlingen and Melissa Moreano:
    • I really like your analysis of individualization versus collectivization and wonder whether you see similar tendencies, framings and strategies in other social movements or grassroots resistance?


  7. I have a question for Sophie Chao:
    • Beautiful analysis of multiplicity of meaning of oil palm and how its materia manifestations become both friend and enemy, as lively and lethal capital. In discussions on the problems around oil palm plantations FPIC is often heralded as the solution. How do you see this, in the light of your analysis? And, if for you FPIC is not the right direction, what would be your idea to ‘solve’ the oil palm problems?

    1. Hi Michiel,

      Thanks for your kind word re the presentation.

      And thanks also for your question – it’s a tricky one!

      As you know, I’ve done quite a bit of research on the potential and pitfalls of an FPIC-centered approach to human and environmental rights in the palm oil sector. What my fieldwork in Merauke taught me, however, was that consent is not something that Marind communities understand as a human-only prerogative or concern. Rather, consent given by humans also needs to take into account the implications and effects of that consent for the more-than-human beings with whom humans share the environment – native forest biodiversity, but also oil palm itself. In other words, what I discovered here was a more-than-human ethos of consent that moved far away from anthropocentric notions of rights and subjectivity.

      Of course, that then raises some thorny questions (so to speak). In what ways does one seek consent from other-than-human beings? Who gets to speak on their behalf? It’s complicated enough seeking collective consent from a human community – extending it beyond the human multiplies the challenges. But I think it’s important to recognize that, certainly for Marind communities, how decisions about land and resources today affect humans and their non-human counterparts (e.g. plants, animals, forest ecosystems, soils, and watercourses) are a central concern. In many ways, this makes total ecological sense – human well-being is intrinsically linked to environmental flourishing, something that monocrops constitute pretty much the obverse of. If the Anthropocene and climate change have taught us anything, it is that. But just how multispecies justice can be achieved within agribusiness landscape is a complicated question – one that Marind themselves often ask themselves.

      I’ll leave it at that for now – thanks for the question Michiel!

      In discussions on the problems around oil palm plantations FPIC is often heralded as the solution. How do you see this, in the light of your analysis? And, if for you FPIC is not the right direction, what would be your idea to ‘solve’ the oil palm problems?

  8. I have some questions for Caitlynn Beckett:
    • I like how you are both working for and a researcher of Ross River. Have you been confronted with policy makers or others that portray your research as partial and subjective and therefore non-worthy? How are you dealing with such claims?
    • What else do you do to fight your cause? Do you also provide ‘advise’ to remediation policy makers, write op-eds, etc. even when not asked for such advice?
    • How do policy makers, or the Ross River envisage dealing with the long term, perpetual aspects of remediation?


    1. Hello Michiel, and thank-you for the questions,

      While I have spent much time fretting about how my research work for Ross River and for my PhD (as it is intertwined) may be portrayed as subjective and therefore ‘biased’, I have come to find, at least while living and working away from academic institutions, that what is seen as subjective or partial work within academia is sometimes, in fact, what communities are directly asking for. So, in terms of community-based research, I have become more open to simply stating my bias, my positionality, and my accountability to community (rather than academia) as central to the work itself, rather than framing it as an impediment or hiding it within detached methodologies.

      At this point in my research, I have not written any op-eds or other types of publications based on the Faro Remediation story specifically – as this work needs to be reviewed by Ross River first. I do, however, undertake additional policy research and provide recommendations/advise for policy makers through my work at Ross River’s environmental company, Dena Cho.

      The perpetual implications of large scale remediation projects present complex challenges that policy makers in Canada and internationally have only very recently begun to confront. In Canada there are limited regulatory or policy based structures through which to mediate these perpetual challenges. Some regions, such as Yukon and British Columbia are currently reviewing processes of collecting financial securities (in order to ensure that remediation costs are not left to tax payers and local communities), but this is just the tip of the iceberg as it is next to impossible to predict what such sites might costs over several generations. Other avenues include implementing stricter requirements for progressive reclamation in connection with impact assessments and water license renewals – but such an approach has yet to be realized in any meaningful way across Canada. On a regional/local scale, many Indigenous communities have been living with such sites for generations already, and therefore have different kinds of mechanisms of confronting these experiences of environmental injustice that often operate outside of the colonial state (including the use of protest, altering land use, framing remediation/reclamation within the context of healing, self-determination and decolonization etc.).

  9. I have a question for Animesh Roy:
    • Very interesting how literature from the Global South on extraction seems to reflect social science analysis. Is that what you are actually trying to do, see how the two are parallel or diverging, or how the two are influencing each other?


  10. Dear all,

    I am Roy Cobby, PhD candidate at King’s College London, taking part in Knowledge production and data extraction stream Panel 2: Technology and infrastructure. Here’re some comments on all the presentations. Overall, great insights!

    On Adrian and David’s presentation, I’m very interested in the idea of using voice to express this lack of power. I am studying digital connectivity and there is a similar, neoliberal entanglement of connectivity and empowerment with little regard for actually understanding the difference between access to online tools and access to the mechanisms under which these tools are being deployed.

    I would ask Karolien and Melissa whether they have reflected on the idea of the “developmental subject”. This is very interesting as the subject of rural development is many times conceived as the individual male entrepreneurial farmer; all other identities are repressed or awkwardly subordinated.

    Regarding Sophie’s work, I am wondering about these issues of human and nonhuman perspectives, as I consider the different assumptions embodied in algorithms and sensoring across commercial plantations. The idea of an Internet of Things opens a new space for understanding this communication between humans, nature and objects.

    I am very thankful to Caitlynn because I had never thought to consider what is left after extractivism, and how to build policies that can be restorative to those communities that were affected by extractivism in the first place.

    Finally, Animesh’s presentation was very insightful. I am very interested in knowing if it occurred to him to apply the framework of analysis to other forms of fiction and expression, perhaps even platforms like social media apps.

    Looking forward to further comments!

    1. Hi Roy,

      Thanks for your comments!

      Your research on algorithms and sensing in the plantation sector sounds fascinating. I have found new materialist approaches super useful in thinking about communication (and miscommunication!) across human, non-human, elemental, and technological beings and forces. At the same time, I’m acutely aware of the dangers of “flattening” the often fraught power dynamics at play between these diverse entities. I guess one question that really interests me when it comes to more-than-human perspectives is – who gets to speak on behalf of the non-human? Given we can never inhabit other-than-human beings’ perceptual lifeworld, in what ways can empathy, the senses, and mimesis help us if not enter, then at least, cultivate an attentiveness to, these other-than-human lifeworlds? These kinds of questions become even more complicated when we start to think about the moral and political valences of other-than-human beings, like oil palm for Marind, for instance.

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts!


    2. Thanks for the comment and connections with your own research, Roy. I’m sure that we refer to as ‘neoliberal participation’ can be revealed in many different contexts and spheres. Here, we drew out the distinction between forms of community engagement/participation that had little effect on decision-making and maintained state control and those that were meaningful and substantive. These illusory forms of participation change very little for these marginalised communities and are tokenistic responses; narrow, bounded and shallow. So certainly an analysis of voice can help reveal the extent to which people and groups- particularly those which are marginalised- can actually be ‘heard’ in political discourse and whether their participation in political and economic spheres extends beyond tokenism.

  11. Dear Karolien and Melissa,

    thank you very much for your very interesting presentation on a this highly relevant topic. I think your critical analysis of visibilisation strategies from INGOs portraying individual human rights defenders is crucial to take into account when it comes to advocacy practices. In my resarch (which will be presented next week on July 9) I am looking at civil society’s operational space in natural resource struggle in Northern Chile where community division provoked by cooptation practices and differing attituteds towards extraction projects seems to be a common phenomenon, what is also weakening the communities resilience and endangering the individuals. In this regard, my question is if you would describe the process of individualisation also as a process (or an effect?) of community division? As far as I understood you related it mostly to leadership practices and strategies.

    Looking forward to your answer!

  12. Hello everyone,

    David and I would like to thank you for the opportunity of being part of this fascinating panel and conference. I look forward to finding time later to watch all the presentations and offer my thoughts to the debate! Thanks to Michiel for charing the online discusison.

    All the best,

    Adrian and David

  13. Hello Karolien and Melissa,

    Thank you so much for that fascinating presentation! I really enjoyed hearing about your research. I found the discussion about individual leadership and the move towards collective mobilisation and security really intriguing. I had two questions. Firstly, as you say, the move towards collective leadership does make it harder for the state and extractive industries to target leaders. How then do you think they will respond to these changes? What sort of strategies might they use to weaken this collective critical resistance? Secondly, I wholeheartedly agree about the benefits of collective leadership, not least because it offers greater opportunity to hear different perspectives and views. However, did you find if there were any significant issues or challenges caused for the movement? For example, what level of consensus was required when deciding on new strategies? At what number of leaders did collective leadership become unwieldy or unworkable?

    I look forward to receiving your response!


  14. I would like to thank Karolien and Melissa for their interesting presentation and I would like to share some of my reflections on this presentation, which I appreciate very much.
    I see commonalities in the tissue of indigenous women in environmental struggles: denouncing environmental and gender violence and violence against environmental defenders.
    Karolien and Melissa raise the issue that patriarchal leadership is related to individual positions and propose that the way to democratise patriarchal leadership is through collective organising.
    The case of Amazon women is illustrative as it demonstrates that women have made a collective decision for a collective action based on collective demands, mobilising `por la vida´ in a collective march and of meeting the President.
    The notion of rupturing patriarchal power through collective actions is crucial because one of the mechanism that sustains patriarchal power is this concentration and institutionalisation of power positions entangled with masculine power. In this case it seems that it are the media and civil society organisation that tend to isolate leaders, based on individualised ideas of leadership but also the context of danger and threats.
    However I think that we have to be cautious as the binary of individual versus collective may also become a new idealised fixed false dichotomy. Collectivities, collective decisions and collective actions can also be permeated by masculine norms and collectives are not always more democratic by definition as collectives can also perform non tolerance for dissent or not assume responsibilities in certain cases. On a strategic level, I think that a balanced mix of individual with collective power and inclusive norms and values are maybe the best ingredients to create deep democratic green societies. On an analytical level this may involve studying the underlying gendered norms and mechanisms of power.

  15. My pleasure, Sophie. Can you further shed some insight into the sawit ontology, as you refer to it in your 2018 publication, as a consensus gathering exercise for the introduction of new technologies in society? Or is this stretching the concept too far?

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