Despite Extractivism

Extracting Us, creative engagements on the front lines
Coal mine in East Kalimantan, from Henri Ismail overlaid with protest graffiti in Western France, from Elona Hoover.

On the 24th June, sixty-eight people gathered on an online platform to listen to artists-activists share their experiences of creative practices on the front lines of resistance against forces that are changing the skin of the planet. We organised this webinar to mark the setting-in motion of the Extracting Us online exhibition and conversation. Because viruses don’t stop machines and extractive practices continue despite the current pandemic, affecting organising and creativity. 

Contributors were invited to respond to the questions: How do creative engagements on the front lines continue in a pandemic? How does COVID-19 emphasise the importance of continued acts of solidarity and resistance? What are ways of continuing the ‘doing’ but also new ways of ‘not doing’ or ‘doing differently’? 

The webinar included presentations from artists-activists-scholars Edgar Kanaykõ Xakriabá, Indigenous photographer and activists based in Brazil, Tracy Glynn, participatory action researcher studying at the University of New Brunswick in Canada, Denilson Baniwa, Indigenous artists and activists based in Brazil, Negar Elodie Behzadi, Lecturer at the University of Bristol working on women miners in Tajikistan, and Jaider Esbell, Indigenous artist and community activist based in Brazil.

Katy Beinart from the University of Brighton hosted the event and the discussion with Jamille Pinheiro Dias, Research Associate at the University of Manchester, and Wendy Harcourt, Professor of Gender, Diversity and Sustainable Development at Erasmus University in the Netherlands.

Those attending the live event were invited to use a pen/pencil and paper throughout the webinar to doodle or draw, as a way of keeping our bodies involved while most of our senses are dealing with a virtual space. Viewers who wish to see the whole webinar are most welcome to do the same. 

Note: During the discussion, Jamille received and shared the terrible news of the death of an Indigenous elder. This might be disturbing content for some viewers. During the event, participants were able at least to share their thoughts and solidarity through the live chat, a feature which is not available to those watching the recording. This blog post by Felipe Milanez and Samuel Vida on Pandemic, Racism and Indigenous and Black Genocide in Brazil: Coronavirus and Extermination Policy gives some background to the context of the Coronavirus pandemic in Brazil, and why this news is particularly distressing.  

The webinar was full of food for thought and emotion, and we look forward to continuing these discussions as part of the conversation in Extracting Us.


Katy Beinart, Chair: Just going to refer back to the questions that we asked, that we’ve kind of set out as part of this, this conversation that we wanted everybody to be thinking about. So we’re in the context of Coronavirus pandemic, which has had a huge impact on people around the world. And one of the things we’ve asked the presenters to think about is, how this has affected what resources are available to them at this time, and changed how they can engage people with their work and their activism. But we also have some questions around care. So we asked how creative practices allow practices of care in the context specifically, of extractivism. And we also asked a question about extraction and how the this work extracts us. So what effect does it have on us as activists, artists and practitioners?

And another question we thought about was, given the pressures that COVID has created, how different is this for creative artists and practitioners, to activists who in a way are having to deal with constant crises in their activist practices. So those are some questions to get us thinking as we go on. We’ve also asked everybody if they could bring a piece of paper and a pencil or pen so that you can draw or doodle as this event is going on. And at the very end of the event, we’ll ask you to hold up your drawing or doodle and Elona will screen grab that so it will go into her, the preparations for the Extracting Us exhibition, which Elona is going to say a bit about later on.

So, I’m going to introduce each speaker of, from the artists, activists presentations, we’ve got five speakers. The first one is pre-recorded and Elona will play the video. And please if you have any technical issues at all, just put a message into the chat and we’ll do our best to help. Okay, so, first of all I’d like to introduce Edgar Kanyako. And Elona, would you like to play Edgar’s video?

Elona: Everyone see this?

[Edgar Kanyako video with subtitles]

Katy Beinart: Thank you very much. Thanks to Mary who subtitled the film from Edgar. And the next presenter is Tracy. Tracy Glynn from Frederickson University. So Tracy are you there? And are you ready? Yeah.

Tracy: Hi. Um, so I share my screen.

Katy: Yeah, and Elona, are you sharing the slides?

Tracy: I can do that. Okay?

Katy: Thank you. That’s great. You share your screen then.

Elona: That’s fine.

Tracy: Oh, you need to enable screen sharing. The host needs to enable screen sharing.

Katy: You should be able to now.

Tracy: Okay, do you all see my slides?

Katy: Yeah, we can see.

Tracy: Okay. Um, so I want to thank the organisers for inviting me to speak on today’s panel. So my activist scholarly work has focused on the gendered nature of resistance to resource extraction using the participatory action research method ‘photovoice’ in Indonesia and more recently in Canada. So resource extraction and its accompanying processes of accumulation by dispossession, exploitation are ongoing even during COVID. In Canada there have been moves to make work in resource extraction industries ‘essential work’ which would mean you know, keeping the gold mines and, and pipeline construction ongoing even during this pandemic. So, we know too that, that this resource extraction is resisted. It’s, as it expands to areas of the world where people do not wish to have the resources under their feet extracted, it is resisted. So now just turning now to my research in Sorowako, Indonesia, which is home to the Vale nickel mine and smelter. So Vale, one of the world’s largest mining corporations has recently been in the international spotlight for two tailings dam disasters in Brazil that destroyed rivers and livelihoods and killing more than 250 people in the latest disaster. So while these catastrophes have deservedly received international attention, condemnation and charges of homicide, the corporation’s daily practices that disrupt and shorten countless lives has received less attention as how, as has how people resist exploitation and dispossession in their everyday lives. So that’s the subject of my research, it’s looking at the gendered nature of everyday resistance. So, dispossessed by mining the Karonsi’e Dongi women in Indonesia, they struggle to make enough money in a day to feed their families. They’ve taken public protests like the hunger strike seen here and street blockades to reclaim their land that they say has been stolen by the mining project.

So in order to tell their stories, sorry, as longtime allies of indigenous organisations representing the the Karonsi’e Dongi and Sorowako peoples, myself as well as Siti Maimunah, who I think some of you present today know and is involved with the Extracting Us events. We both suggested a photovoice project to women from both communities as a way for them to share stories of their lives with the world. So 14 women, seven from each community agreed to participate. And in August 2015, the women produced a total of 75 photo stories that shared the strengths, challenges and hopes that they have for their, for their communities. So quickly, and I think maybe some of you already are familiar with photovoice, but photovoice is a feminist activist ethnographic research method that involves storytelling with photographs, answering a research question using photo storytelling. So there are many benefits associated with photovoice, including that it provides a space for collective reflection, that it gives voice to research participants, that it has the power to reach / influence / mobilize the public / policymakers in compelling visual ways. Shannon Bell and others suggests that photovoice can also be used for achieving more radical social transformation goals. Photovoice is able to elucidate how people live and are affected differently by certain ideas, public policies, institutions, and thus is a method that challenges dominant economic and social systems and ideologies such as neoliberalism.

So yeah, so just going on. Our photovoice project also included a conjunctural exercise that’s inspired by Canadian popular education scholar Deborah Barndt, aimed at naming the moment in the women’s photo stories. So we asked the woman to situate the moments captured in their photographs in historical, social, economic, political events, as a way to discuss the structural and intersectional nature of daily lives and struggles in relation to resource extraction, in relation to their resistance. Oh, I’m not sure why my slides don’t change. Okay. So some of the themes captured in the woman’s photo stories. These are, I list them here but – so while a predominant theme found in the women’s photo stories depicted life as a struggle in relation to mining, another predominant theme also celebrated what’s special about their homes and lives, which proponents of resource extraction often wanted to keep it in. So by doing so, the women also are asserting their presence and resisting resource extraction with conscious intent, which some scholars of everyday resistance say that you can’t, that it’s too difficult to uncover conscious intent. We found that the photovoice project method allowed for that conscious intent to be uncovered, specifically a quiet encroachment of the ordinary that’s theorised by Asif Bayat, that looks at how the oppressed quietly, subtly make encroachments in their everyday lives, how they not only resist their oppression but also quietly encroach on new gains that better their life chances. So just getting to one of the photo stories, so besides unearthing –

Katy: Sorry to say you’ve got two minutes.

Okay. So yeah, so besides unearthing, a subtle kind of resistance that’s backed by conscious intent, photovoice allowed for a deeper kind of ethnography that we argued allows us to see empathy and solidarity building carrying across the communities, where other research methods have not found that. So, for example in this story, Saskia – sorry going back to this being an example of quiet encroachment of the ordinary – so Saskia shared: “Mostly women work in the Vale dump I have a better than my friend. She’s a young widow who has five small children. She often looks for rice that’s been dumped by Vale households. She re-cooks the rice and turns it into a porridge. Sometimes we get fish and we wash it again and cook it again. This is a hard way to make a living but it’s better than stealing or begging. We must go there before the dump trucks come – if not, we must scramble away with the cows.” So the, yeah here the women are going to the Vale dump every day even though they’re not allowed to, but they argue that it’s on their traditional territory that they have not surrendered, and they have a right to do so. And this is one of the ways that they survive and resist. So just maybe going on, so the other community Sorowako has it a little bit better maybe then the Karonsi’e Dongi community that’s been totally shut out of employment opportunities at the mine, the Sorowako community has some access to social services that the Karonsi’e Dongi community does not. We don’t see the Sorowako women publicly resisting, but the photovoice project allowed for the Sorowako women to show their solidarity with the Karonsi’e Dongi community. And we found empathy there. So having empathy can be regarded as a form of resistance to the callous individualist subjects that neoliberalism and capitalism nurture. So a situation that has only intensified under neoliberalism. And now with COVID, with more and deeper cuts to social programs expected, you know, we already have the economists telling us that we need to expect this.

So, so I guess photovoice is an effective method that allows for empathy to be displayed. So acting in a compassionate way towards other humans and life forms is thus a subversive act under capitalist social relations, since it troubles commodification of land and labour and the creation of self maximizing entrepreneurial human subjects that neoliberalism fosters. So yes, I know my time is running out. The women of this study acted in a compassionate way when they called into question structures that are sources of suffering, such Beina’s photo stories on how the mining company and authorities have failed to provide adequate social services for the Karonsi’e Dongi people. So the women’s photo stories displaying empathy and compassion resist the cruelty and indifference that is encouraged in capitalist society. As Aragno stated here, empathy communicates “interest, acceptance, compassion, tolerance, respect, forbearance, understanding, closeness, separateness”. So empathy can resist hegemonic structures since it complicates narratives that are too simple untidy that only serve domination or oppression. So as extraction of capitalism continues during this covid period, causing further oppression and deepening social inequalities, it will also be resisted. So photovoice is just one powerful digital method that allows people to safely share their experiences while also imagining what they wish to see in a post COVID, post extractivist, post capitalist world. Thank you.

Katy: Brilliant. Thank you very much, Tracy. And great, we’ll just get back to the main screen. Thanks very much Tracy, fascinating. So next we’re going to have a video presentation from Denilson of the indigenous Baniwa community from Brazil and Elona is going to screen share to play the video.

Elona: Can you see this?

Katy: Yes, yep….We can’t see anything yet Elona, can you press play? We can’t see – Elona, we can’t see the video.

Perse: Elona, I can play it. Let me share my screen. Sorry, I’m just gonna go back to the beginning.

Katy: Check the sound

Elona: I can share it with the computer sound again. It’s not coming, the sound isn’t coming through. Good.

[Denilson Baniwa film with subtitles]

Katy: So, thank you very much to Denilson for that really rich video. And next I would like to welcome Negar, who’s a lecturer at the University of Bristol, who’s going to present her work to us in person. So welcome, Negar.

Negar: Great, thank you. So yes, first of all, thank you for this invitation. I’m really delighted to be here today and I’m very happy that something is happening even though we cannot meet in person. And so I guess I’m going to start with a brief introduction to my work in general and my creative engagements. So as mentioned here as my name is Negar-Elodi Behzadi and so I’m a lecturer in human geography at the University of Bristol, and I’m also a feminist geographer and political ecologist. And so my ethnographic work that has inspired most of my creative engagements, has so far focused on a coal resource extractive landscape in post Soviet Tajikistan, where workers were experiencing multiple forms of dispossessions. So this is a small country in Central Asia if you’re not familiar with this area of the world. So my work is particularly focused on the gendered work of male, female and children, illegal coal miners in a landscape that is marked by the advent of Chinese investments in mining. So, it was very much looking at forms of gendered and intersectional exclusions that occurred in a context of political ecological transformation, and in particular, in the context of the rise of forms of post socialist extractive capitalism. So overall, my research looks at the ways in which exclusion and marginalisation – so based on gender as well as age, religion, class, ethnicity, and also other axes of difference – are produced and reproduced in stressed environments and by resource extractive practices.

A big part of my work over the past years has also focused on investigating the potential of visual art based and creative methodologies in research on questions of exclusion, marginalisation and violence in general. And so, this has given rise to the constitution of a network, the VEM – the Visual and Embedded Methodologies network that I have co-founded at King’s College London, which is my previous institution, and that I am planning to expand now at my new institution at the University of Bristol. So what I’m really interested in in terms of creative and visual methodologies is to question how we can think about the use of these methodologies beyond a participatory paradigm that sometimes tends to reproduce a form of binary between researchers and research participants. And at the same time, I’m also interested in the actual potential of such methodologies in creating affective and embodied spaces that I think have the potential to constitute the locus for the emergence of different forms of political awareness, and something that traditional academic writing may not always have the capacity to work on. And second, I’m also interested in the potential of such methodologies in which we break the boundaries of academic spaces and travel beyond and which are urgent. And I think as an academic – the third point – I’m also interested in the ethical potential of these methodologies as a way of giving back the stories that have been shared with me during my ethnographic work. So, what I’m doing here is that I’m very much speaking from the perspective of an academic who’s been exploring the political potential of creating engagements, whether from the perspective of an artist per se, but I guess as someone who’s a practitioner in becoming, I’ve also co-curated multiple exhibitions and exhibited some of my photographic work on questions of gender and resource exclusion. And I’ve also co-directed two films – so one short ethnographic film on resource exclusion so in the village where I conducted my ethnographic work, with a video editor, so the short film is called ‘Como’, which means coal in Tajik. And I’ve also co directed another short ethnographic animation portrait, this time with a feminist animation artists who was called Kate Jessop. So this piece is called ‘Nadirah Coal Woman’ and it focuses on the embodied and lived experience of stigmatization experienced by women miners, female miners in the village in Tajikistan.

So what has the current pandemic meant for these creative engagements? I think one of the things that I found really interesting in the description of the event that you circulated is what you said about viruses don’t stop machines. And so they’re invisible to the human eye. And yet the relationship between COVID-19 and the extractive sector is striking. So on one side, we have a general discourse on the potential benefits of COVID-19 for the environment, with a language of opportunity and win-win solutions, but then on the other side, and in sharp contrast, what we see is often an exacerbation of the types of exclusions and violences that existed before in resource extractivism contexts. Both in the global north and the global south. And the example given by Tracy earlier about workers in Canada tar sands who keep going to work in the middle of a pandemic, despite the dangers to their health that this constitutes, and thinking about the potential mining conflicts between illegal gold miners and industrial miners that might arise all around the world as a result of increases in gold prices. I’m thinking about new mining contracts that keep being signed in the context of a pandemic, in indigenous lands. And in Tajikistan I’m thinking about violences against Chinese miners, that actually reflect, in a way, the exacerbation of an anti Chinese sentiment as a response to the Chinese imperialist, extractivist practices experienced in the region and that have been going on for decades now. And these are very much existing and still need to be made visible. And I guess as an academic, if creative engagements for an ethnographer, like me, are about making visible conventionally invisibilised stories of people who are excluded in research extractive contexts, what does it mean to be unable to have access to the field? To the voices of research participants? And what does it mean to suddenly be unable to actually speak with people? And you mentioned this question of like, ‘extracting us’ and I think there is something else about extracting them again. I am in regular contact with my family and my surrogate families in the field, but there is something going on about like, what type of, like, exchanges can I have in a phone call? And so in a way, this has meant that first I’ve retrenched somehow to more immediate ways of researching and communicating about these issues. And I’m currently working on designing a poster with an anthropologist, publishing actually a pretty simple news piece on COVID-19 and resource exclusion as a basis for future research projects. And at the same time, and interestingly, it’s also I think, a time when creative engagements in academia can also move from the margins to the centre. And there is a momentum, I think here. So as a lecturer at Bristol, I will from next year, be convening a qualitative module for our postgraduate students in geography. And the current situation they mean, so I think as for the many other educators to think about ways of gathering data and sort of creating knowledge beyond our traditional qualitative methods, which really pushed me to think about how we can bring the arts, the visual and the digital into the classroom in a way, and how we can teach these to our students. So I’m currently using this time to retrain on these aspects in order to be able to fully share with my students starting next year. I think as much as I’m pretty pessimistic about the future of resource conflicts in the time of COVID-19, I think I’ll just end with the statement here, I’m remaining actually, like interested and curious about the way creative methods are going to be used in the next months and then next year, maybe within universities as well.

Katy: Thank you very much Negar. Lots of really interesting points there, which we could pick up on later, hopefully. So, finally, we are going to have a presentation from Jaider, which Elona is going to prepare for us.

[Jaider Esbell video with subtitles]

Katy: So, thanks Elona for sharing that video from Jaider. I think that there’s so much within these presentations that we could draw on. One of the things that kind of struck me was this idea of visibility and how visible or non visible activists’ voices are in all sorts of different contexts, but also the question of the invisibility of the spirits that people are trying to represent through their work. And how the COVID current situation, which is not a new one for many people of being in a crisis, has exacerbated violence and fear and perhaps made people’s voices less heard, and created other forms of othering. I don’t know if that makes sense, but that we’re now in a situation where access to technology is very, very limited for some and fine for others, and that gives, that produces another kind of othering. But I would like to hand over now to Elona, who’s going to talk a bit about the exhibition ‘Extracting Us’ and which is the context of this event today.

Elona: Oh hi everyone and thanks Katy. I’ll just keep it very brief but we – myself and Mai, Siti Maimunah and Dian Ekowati, and Alice Owen and and Rebecca Elmhirst – sent out an invitation for a collaborative exhibition on questions of extractivism and feminist political ecology. And we had amazing response from artists involved in such work. And so we’re going to curate, to co curate an exhibition that would be happening, in fact, right now in Brighton, and we have been really fortunate to move this exhibition online and it will be going live if all goes well on the 31st of July. And we’ve also really, so we wanted to use this as a space to kind of share some of the practices and, and so Negar is going to be part of this exhibition and also the work from Edgar, Denilson and Jaider, which is linked to the another project on ‘Atmospheres of Violence’, which Mary, who is in this call, in this webinar is also is kind of co leading on I guess we can say, Mary correct me.

And so we’re really fortunate to be sharing this work, kind of in advance of the online exhibition and conversation. And so this is actually a way of starting this conversation together. So yes there’ll be more to come and we’ll share the links to the exhibition with everyone who’s signed up to this webinar.

Katy: Brilliant. Thank you, Elona. And next, I’d like to introduce Jamille, who’s a research associate working in the AHRC funded project ‘Cultures of anti racism in Latin America’ at University of Manchester. Jamille Dias is going to respond to the presenters’ videos and live presentations. So, over to you Jamille. Hold on.

Jamille: Thank you very much, Katie. Thank you, Mary for the initial invite. And thank you Elona for co-organising this fascinating event. I’m speaking to you today from the Amazon from Belem, one of the capitals of the Amazon and where I’ve been self isolating for three months now after a long trip from Manchester, and I know Denilson and Jaider well – we have met in a event called ‘Amazonian Poetics’ last year in the US, at Princeton. And since then we have been communicating and also as part of the research project that we are working on in Manchester. I wanted to share the blog of our project because there are a couple of works by Denilson there. One beautiful tribute that he wrote for Feliciano Luna, an artist that passed away due to COVID-19 on May 12. And there’s also a translation of a recent piece by Denilson: ‘Ritual mask for our world in crisis’. So, as Katy said, I wanted to share some remarks providing some context for the testimonies. And as many of you know, the Amazon is, has been hit with particular force by the pandemic. Denilson and Jaider are both from the Amazon: Denilson is from Amazonas and he’s now based in Niterói, but he’s from Mariuá, Rio Negro, Amazonas. And Jaider is from Horaima, where the gallery that you saw in his presentation is.

And I wanted to highlight what they have said about artists already: by definition, working on the front lines and doing art as something that happens on the front lines. So we can consider that art, the arts are a central pillar for dealing with pain and grief. And it’s no different for indigenous peoples, indigenous people and peoples in general, and artists facing the outbreak here in Brazil. The arts and cultural production at large, including what’s happening online now are an important resilience enhancing factor. As we have heard from them, the impact of the pandemic on the networks in which artists operate have already proved to be profound. Denilson mentioned the cancellation and suspension of exhibitions, grants, trips, what was being planned for this year. Like for so many of you, I imagine, my research plans for this year, were all, were also profoundly impacted. And we are all adapting somehow. But what is happening with many of the contemporary indigenous artists in Brazil, is that they are still quite active online. Katie has mentioned the problem of access to technology, which is true. There are differences in terms of connectivity. But Jaider and Denilson are very much present and doing live streaming. And it’s possible to follow them, to listen to them. And to support them through these times. By the way, if you’re interested in their art, they also sell their works online so you can contact them directly. Perhaps I could share Denilson’s website later on, so people can contact them directly if they want to do so. And as Jaider said, the use of digital technologies is important for artists to share their practice with a wider audience. So sometimes Jaider will do live streams from the gallery and share them on Facebook where he’s quite active.

So my work routine as a researcher has involved following them online, right, and looking after the blog of our project that I have shared. And there are many live streamings happening not just from artists but from activists, from indigenous activists. And in many of those live streamings the link between structural racism and under-reporting of cases and deaths are being denounced. And there is this organisation in Brazil called Brazil’s Indigenous People Articulation. The acronym is APIB. They have decided to produce statistics on their own because as you know, the statistics we are receiving from this presidency, Bolsonaro’s presidency, is not reliable. So we don’t have a reliable sense of how many people are dying, how many indigenous peoples are dying. If we only – we have to do more than just rely on what’s coming from the Bolsonaro government. So, having noticed that, Brazil’s Indigenous People Articulation has created a committee which is the National Committee for Indigenous Life and Memory. And if you want to, to follow that it’s also available online. I can share links afterwards. And so I think that it’s really important for contemporary indigenous artists now to further memorialisation of the life stories of indigenous COVID-19 victims. This is very clear in Denilson’s work so far. I’m less familiar with Edgar’s work, but I think it’s amazingly important to show what’s happening in the, in the villages and as a register, so that not just the cases and deaths are made visible but also people who are struggling to to prevent this genocide from being even worse.

And then there is an interesting, quite recent initiative called Memorial Vagalumes… You can also follow them on Instagram. They’re sort of building an archive of indigenous lives lost to the pandemic, and I’ll share the link afterwards with the others. And yeah, so my, my idea now is just highlighting the importance of art that engages with grief through creativity. And if I focus on how we artists are honoring lives lost to the pandemic, so it’s a pleasure to participate. And I hope you’re all well and safe. I look forward to continue our conversations. Thank you, Katy.

Katy: Thanks very much. That was really great. And, yes, if you could put some of those links into the chat section, that would be brilliant. I think people are picking up on those. That would be really good. Thank you so much. So now, finally, I would like to invite Wendy. Wendy Harcourt is professor of gender diversity and sustainable development at the Erasmus University in the Netherlands. Wendy, are you ready?

Wendy: Yes. Okay. Okay, thank you, Katie, and thanks very much. I think it must be Becky Elmhirst who invited me to talk, I found this really fascinating. Also, because of the different contexts that were being confronted with: indigenous artists and Jamille in, in Brazil, and then the rest – some, I think a lot of us, having the security of being in places where we have salaries and can contemplate this, I’m very conscious of those inequalities. And I think COVID-19 has made us even more so. So I’m going to speak. I am not an artist. I actually have two daughters who would like to be artists, but that’s not going to be giving me any credibility, although I enjoy art tremendously. But it’s more as a teacher, somebody who’s working in a community of learning, right now online, because that’s where I’m based, but I’m normally based in The Hague, and I’m also working with a group of international scholars in working on feminist political ecology, of which Becky is one and Alice and Dian and I think also Mai who’s here are also part of that. And I think what we’re trying to do is learn how to translate the complex things that we’re looking at as academics into something that is understandable to a broader public, through, through art and with artists. And that’s something that I think social media before, certainly before COVID has allowed us to do in interesting ways. And it’s something that I think we’re continuing to explore. In my own teaching practices working with, I guess, I would call it photovoice as well – people working with collage, working with images as well as with text to try to think through the inequalities that we are experiencing in international development, particularly from a decolonial perspective. So these are, in a way, communities of learning that are bringing, working with art and working with everybody as an artist to think through the changes we’re going through. Obviously, in COVID-19, this has become even more striking as a way forward because many of the students I teach in the international institute, so many of the students were stuck literally in the tiny confines of their rooms, not able to travel home. Over 90% of the students I teach come from the global south. And so we had to work together. So me online, I’m here in Italy, to to talk through what kind of research can we do and this idea of compassionate ways of doing research. And I was, as I was listening to, particularly the researchers, I realized that in many ways, that is what we we’ve been learning from – is different students who – one from Columbia is looking at a House of Memory, building a House of Memory to, to the, not indigenous people, but to the women in marginalized areas. Talking about their own experience of gender violence and the violence of what’s going on now. Another student who’s been looking at how to work with queer artists and Instagram in Ecuador experiencing COVID-19. So just to say that, I see a very welcome way in which art and the sort of non text, the non written form of experiencing and thinking through the inequalities and problems that we’re facing, is being brought into research. So I think that’s echoing the potential that we have in these moments to use what’s become forced on us, I think. To use social media and to use visual artistic ways of thinking. I’m saying that as someone who is also trying to think through what kinds of meanings you have, when you could, you could do that. I’ll, um, I’ll put things in the chat once I finished.

In terms of what I also wanted to reflect on. This maybe goes outside of what other people have done, which I have spoken about so far, which is, I think, the whole issue of COVID-19 and the international ways in which we’re connecting – as the artists were saying, crisis is part of most people’s lives. What I’ve experienced as someone living in Europe is suddenly it’s become – oh, have you lost the sound?

Katy: No, we can hear you.

Wendy: Okay, thank you. It’s also suddenly the COVID-19 has become our crisis. And that’s bought it much more right to home, about how crisis is experienced by many marginalised peoples around the world. And I think that’s been something that made me realise, even though I’ve been sort of working and teaching in this area, how much “North-splaining” goes on about what people see as important. So I think one thing maybe COVID-19 is forcing us to do is to shift our views and start to listen to other points of view. Other ways of understanding knowledge production, artistic work, meanings – whether that’s totally outside of the Eurocentric way of seeing knowledge. North-splaining for me is something that I’m really aware that I end up being part of, but I’m trying to unlearn that. As a scholar / activist, as a teacher, listening and learning from my students I work with, but also from artists, I mean, including what we heard today. And I think that for me, that’s a big potential but it’s also about stepping away from my own issues and trying to transform my way of thinking so that I hear the level of crisis that people are experiencing, and also because it’s not only COVID-19 but Black Lives Matter’s issue of racism has now really come straight into the ways in which we realise that our embodied ways of being do have meaning in histories, etc. So I’m not, maybe, being very clear. What I’m trying to say here is that this, yes, North-splaining is something that I need to be working on for myself. Personally, I’m from Australia. So I come from an unfortunate history of great violence towards Indigenous peoples, which continues also with huge amounts of imprisonment, etc. So I think that’s really – Oh, and then I maybe I should also mention, I think all of us are very aware of this, the whole gender dimension of what’s going online as well as something that we can see – we see that particularly women who are taking on care roles, but I think enough has been said about that in other forums.

So that’s really all I wanted to say, apart from this idea of seeing empathy or care as something that I think is very difficult, depending on in which context you are, which it can mean actually removing oneself from one’s point of view and listening a lot harder to others. I think that maybe is what also Katy was mentioning when she said there is this othering going on. Okay, so well thank you. Thank you very much and I’ve been short. So I hope we can hear a lot more from other people who waited patiently.

Katy: Thank you very much, Wendy. Thanks to everyone who’s presented and responded so far. So now we would like to invite everyone else to ask questions. Rebecca? No, okay. So could you either put your hand up or make some kind of zoom signal by clapping or putting a thumbs up or whatever, or you can put a question into the chat and I or Elona or Persephone will read this out. So, I can’t see everyone on my screen at the moment, so if you have put your hand up and I haven’t responded, then you can use the chat function. So I’d like to invite questions or thoughts or responses from others now. Yes, Kay?

Kay: Yeah. I just had the question as you’re going through, and it’s about photovoice and I just wanted to – if Tracy could explain a bit more ‘naming the moment’. I was really interested in that. I don’t know if she’s still…

Tracy: Yes. Hi, thank you for that question. So yeah, so ‘naming the moment’ taking – those words are from Deborah Barndt who … And so, yes Siti Maimunah and myself, we decided to innovate the photovoice method by by adding this conjunctural exercise I guess, to the photovoice project. So we brought the two photovoice groups together where we had developed a timeline of important events that occurred in the community over the last 50 years, 100 years. And then the participants situated, historically situated, their moments of struggle with those different events, and then that also allowed for a discussion about, yeah about how structures affect our lives, how it affects our lives differently as, as maybe an indigenous community member from one community. So, yes, I strongly encourage innovating the photovoice method that way as a way to deliberately talk about intersectionality as well as structures that dominate our lives.

Kay: Right, that’s really helpful, thank you.

Katy: Any other questions? Or comments? Yes, Emily. Emily Laurens.

Emily: Hi, can you hear me? Yes. Um, I just had a question about effecting change. I’m loving hearing about all the research. So this is especially about research. And, you know, it’s amazing to hear these different models of research and bringing very creative practices into research. I’m just wondering if there are any examples, or if there is another layer of research into how, like locally how this has created change or if it has created change? For instance, how the mining organisations or companies – like have they responded, has there been, is there a dialogue there between researchers and activists and people like Vale you know, the mining corporations like – what is there a relationship? What is that? What is that relationship? Are they looking at the photovoices, or the research, are they looking at the research, are they interested at all? Yeah, I don’t know who best could answer that.

Tracy: I can quickly – I don’t want to dominate at the question period. But Vale, I’m not sure if this was in response to our photovoice project, but a year after our photovoice project, they launched their own photo journalism contest. And the winning submissions had titles such as “Vale bring civilization to Indonesia” or whatever. So, so I thought that was interesting that they, I think they’re, you know, they may have been aware of the photovoice project, but even if they were not, they were still, you know, like perpetuating colonial myths and such and, and that our photovoice project, hopefully, you know, did the opposite of that.

Katy: Would others like to respond to that question?

Negar: Yeah, I can maybe like say a few words as well. I think there was one element that is also important which is like how, like how to create actual change the ground, and at the same time to protect the people who are involved, and also to protect the possibility of doing research in some contexts. And in the context of Tajikistan and the mining complex that I was working on, I’m pretty sure that sharing with actively the mining companies, or something that will have which the government one way or another will have meant, like an impossibility of undertaking this type of research in the future. And so these are the types of things as well that need to be negotiated.

Katy: Okay, we’ve got a question here from Amy Sweet. And, oops, I just lost it again. Right. Negar mentioned the narrative of crisis as opportunity and win-win solutions, which I also see a lot. Do any of the presenters have any ideas of how we can constructively contribute to counter narratives for indigenous peoples in particular? So would any of the presenters like to respond to that question? How we can constructively contribute to counter narratives? Yes, Wendy.

Wendy: Okay, I think the most important thing is working in alliance with the construction of these counter narratives. Because they are there, they’re there. It’s not that we have to construct them. So it’s more about listening to them and hearing them and removing – being allies in ways that you can with access to power, with access to resources, at least in in my engagement in Australia, which although I don’t live there anymore, I’m still working with quite a few, well with different different groups of Indigenous women artists. So it’s working in a non government organisation with them to support the work they’re doing, but also actually to support the resistances to – it’s not extractivism though, it’s to stop various practices, put it that way. I don’t feel I should name them, but I think it’s acting as allies and recognising the role that you play in that.

Katy: Negar, if you want to respond as well?

Negar: Yeah, I think I think it’s a great question because well, we’ve been, I mentioned, to desire with Stephanie Postar an anthropologist to actually just like write something and write something fast and write something that is visible, which is not necessarily what academics do all the time. But I think there is this idea of like the narratives exist, the stories are visible. If you do a very basic press review, you realize that there are stories of just like contracts that are signed in indigenous land, despite the context and as I mentioned, like tar sands workers in Canada, so all the stories are here. But when we speak about the environment and environment pieces in, like, mass media are mostly about actually just, like, win-win solutions. So I tend to make this type of narrative visible I think, by trying to just transform the media that academics use, but I’m speaking from the perspective of an academic. And in a way this makes me step back also from creative practice because, yeah. So it’s moving from academic writing and these creative engagements that I see as more like, long term type of engagement to something that is like trying to just create, you know, visibility as fast as possible.

Katy: Thanks, Negar. Jamille, would you like to respond to that as well? I think you’re just I’m just gonna unmute you.

Jamille: Thank you, Katy. I’ll try to elaborate on that because I have just received the news that another indigenous traditional artist has passed away. And it’s someone that’s very close to Jaider, and we were raising funds for her treatment. Anyway, I’ll share the link to a trailer of a film that they did together last year, and so that you can get to know her. Um, so yeah. I’m sorry guys. It’s happening everyday. The elderly are dying. And those are the ones who know the language, the songs and the traditions. So yeah. So we were discussing the, the narrative of crisis as an opportunity that Amy raised…

Katy: The kind of counter narrative and how, you know, we can constructively contribute to those narratives, in particular for indigenous peoples. I think you’ve kind of already spoken about actually, but I don’t know if you wanted to say anything.

Jamille: Yeah, I think amplifying their voices. It’s much more an exercise of listening and trying to go beyond the obvious and trying to dig deeper and to become more and more familiar with what’s specific to each population, to each culture. And rather than sticking to a generic notion of what indigenous is, like, Jaider comes from a different tradition from Denilson. So how do we become more familiar with the subtle differences between what each one of them offers intheir art? So yeah. Send support in whatever ways you can – if not by buying their art, maybe sharing the fundraisings that are being organised to help prevent even more deaths, not only in the Amazon but there are communities in other parts of Brazil that have been hit. And whatever you’re reading in the news, it’s worse. What’s happening here is even worse. So thank you for everyone who is sending their support. And we will make sure that Jaider receives your support. He called her his grandmother. So that’s how close they were. Thankyou.

Katy: Sorry, really sorry to hear that. I’m, yeah, I’m sorry that you have to keep speaking. If you didn’t want to.

Jamille: No it’s, it’s fine. You know, sharing is what makes us stronger now. It’s Thank you.

Katy: Thank you. Has anyone else got a contribution or a question that they’d like to ask for? a thought or perhaps any of the presenters want to say anything else? Okay, um, well, I think in that case, um, I think that the issue of grief is something that I speak about, and I’m sure we’ve all experienced it in some form or another, whether – sorry, I’ve also lost a family member during this period. But it’s something that’s not just about – it’s also the loss of familiar things and things that bring us together and that we’re not able to do at the moment. So I think it’s a very difficult and emotional time. And it’s kind of current. Our government anyway, this kind of current bolshy idea that we all go back to normal seems very insensitive.

So I would just like to come back to the conference and the exhibition. So I don’t know whether maybe Becky would like to say anything more about the POLLEN conference or the exhibition of Extracting Us to remind people what is happening, otherwise I can do it. Do you want to say anything else? Elona would you like to say anything else about the exhibition?

Elona: Um. Yeah. I’m also in a, in a moment of receiving and trying to listen and I’m… So we’re preparing this online exhibition and conversation and we would really like it to be a conversation and to include… will be a release of a few works over the course of the end of July and August and we’ll be having another event like this in September in around the 22nd to the 25th, which will be alongside the new dates for the political ecology conference, POLLEN 20. And it will probably be an online exhibition like this. So we’re going to kind of see if we can negotiate for it to be open beyond the participants of the conference. And I just want to thank everyone who’s involved in making that happen. It’s a holding page now that I’ll put the link on the chat as well. And I don’t really know what else to say.

Katy: Thank you. And so, we had planned to ask people to share an image of anything that they’ve drawn or written at this point in time, if people feel that they’d like to do that Elona is going to screengrab anything that people hold up. So if you’d like to, that would be really nice. I’m just gonna hold up some words that I’ve written, but anything that you’ve written or drawn maybe you can just hold up, and Elona will – Elona I don’t know if you can manage to screen grab at the same time as doing that? I’ll try. Okay, thank you very much. So I just wanted to say thanks so much to everyone who’s been involved in making this event happen, and everyone who’s contributed with their voice, but also people have contributed through the chat. And Persephone, I think you’ll be able to share some of the links, is that right? So, yeah, we’ll follow up. Yeah, so we’ll follow up with links for fundraising and for the artists that we’ve spoken about and some of the other things we’ve spoken about. And I think that’s, that’s everything. I just wanted to say such a huge thanks especially to Jamille for her kind of honesty about what’s happening, and and for going through that. That was a very difficult thing to have to be part of.

Jamille: Thank you Katy.

Katy: Elona, did you want to say anything else as we close? Okay, well, thanks. Thanks again. And we’ll share all of the outcomes from this and go away and have some time to reflect and it would be nice to find a way to continue the conversation, which I’m sure we can do at the POLLEN conference and very much look forward to being part of that as well. So I’ll say goodbye now and we’ll finish the meeting. Thank you.

Elona: Thank you. Thank you, everyone.


The Extracting Us exhibition and conversation series is co-curated by Siti Maimunah, Elona Hoover, Dian Ekowati, Alice Owen and Rebecca Elmhirst with critical insight and support from independent curator Celina Loh. Online exhibition designed and developed by Celina Loh with the Extracting Us Collective.

This project is made possible by support from 
ONCA Gallery, the Centre for Spatial, Environmental and Cultural Politics at the University of Brighton, the Wellbeing, Ecology, Gender and cOmmunity research network funded by the European Union Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 764908), and collaboration with the Women in Action on Mining in Asia (WAMA) collaborative network and the ‘Sustainable’ Development and Atmospheres of Violence: Experiences of Environmental Defenders project funded by The British Academy.


WEGO-ITN (Wellbeing, Ecology, Gender and cOmmuny International Training Network) is an EU-funded research network contributing to the political ecology, feminist studies, human geography, anthropology, and development studies’ understanding of extractivism, commoning, care, communities, livelihoods, embodied subjectivities and resistance to development. WEGO-ITN is made up of scholar-activists working on feminist political ecology from ten institutions in six European Union countries: Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, The Netherlands, and the United Kingdom and ten institutions from eight countries for training and secondments: Australia, India, Indonesia, Italy, New Zealand, Portugal, Uruguay and USA.

The Centre for Spatial, Environmental and Cultural Politics (SECP), based at the University of Brighton, undertakes interdisciplinary research to address global and planetary challenges such as climate change, human migration, social inequalities and resource access or depletion. SECP explores the environmental, spatial and cultural dimensions of ecological and social challenges in specific places, to offer new knowledge and practice for the creation of more sustainable and socially just societies.

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ONCA is a Brighton based arts charity that bridges social and environmental justice issues with creativity. ONCA promotes positive change by facilitating inclusive spaces for creative learning, artist support, story-sharing and community solidarity. ONCA Gallery works with artists, educators and organisations to co-deliver exhibitions, events and workshops that explore social and environmental issues.

Except where otherwise noted, the content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
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About Despite Extractivism

As with the Extracting Us exhibition, we invited the Despite Extractivism contributors to consider how their work can follow our guiding principles:

• The online exhibition brings together artistic and creative contributions that explore everyday community experiences of and responses to extractivism, and/or engage in ongoing conversations around extractivism, communities and care, in its various forms and registers.

• It includes three core aims:
– to challenge ‘north-south’ and ‘producer-consumer’ narratives on extractivism
– to listen to perspectives from those most affected, and develop actions of solidarity and resistance across countries and continents
– to challenge the viewer to make (sometimes unexpected) connections and develop solidarity (e.g, inviting the viewer to take specific actions or connect with the community

• The exhibition thinks about extractivism and care in terms of materials from (and of) the earth, and considers the experiences of humans and the rest of the natural world.

• The exhibition will include narratives of resistance where possible/relevant; and avoid relying on pathos that might develop an ‘us/them’ feeling

• The exhibition will work with quality materials while also challenging ‘professional’ or ‘distanced’ kinds of aesthetics

Despite Extractivism assembles expressions of care, creativity and community from diverse sites of extraction and geographical contexts. Extractivism is characterised by the violent accumulation of resources, which often devastates and disrupts affected communities and the natural world. Collectively, the works in this exhibition illuminate and explore ways of questioning, subverting and resisting the logics and impacts of extractivism.

Despite Extractivism
is part of the ongoing ‘Extracting Us’ collective journey exploring the  diverse, uneven but sometimes connected ways in which resource extraction also extracts from communities. It is an invitation to explore questions around extractivism and its logics, but also to explore the already-existing alternatives.  How do communities and creatives (struggle to) cultivate care for nature and for each other despite extractivism? Can sites of extraction be a fertile ground for alternatives?  Can artistic interventions help foster new sensibilities and solidarities with distanced extractive contexts?

Like weeds growing through the cracks in concrete, and in their flourishing slowly forcing the cracks to widen, the contributors to
Despite Extractivism scatter here their seeds of ways of thinking or being in extractive contexts. 

There are stories of artists who are involved with communities inhabiting landscapes threatened by destructive projects, imagining and practising ways of being which subvert and resist extractivism:  V’Cenza Cirefe’s
Counter-mapping in the Sperrins (resisting gold mining in Northern Ireland), Chesney’s Down The Line (resisting the HS2 railway in England)  and Federico Pardo’s forthcoming contribution (resisting gold mining in Cajamarca, Columbia).

There are illuminations of other tactics of resistance, from the creativity of the Kartini Kendeng women ecological defenders and their portrayals by Dewi Candraningrum (resisting cement mining in Java, Indonesia), to the counter-mapping initiative by the Pari Island community, JKPP and collectives to stop extractive tourism (Seribu Islands, Indonesia).

There are explorations of the uneven geographies of extractivism, with Karin Edstedt’s (Title) embroidery depicting the disproportionate environmental injustices of mining on indigenous communities (copper extraction conflict in Laver, Sápmi; coal mining in Kalimantan, Indonesia), and Sandro Simon’s audiovisual work Bidonmondes drawing attention to the omnipresence of extractivism through the everyday repurposing of imported palm oil canisters in the Sine-Saloum Delta, Senegal (originating from extractive palm oil plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia).

There are intimate accounts of uprooting due to extractive projects, accompanied by the persistent determination to build or rebuild lives in Between Rivers by Daniel Macmillen Voskoboynik (Intergenerational care and multidimensional extractivism, Russian Urals), This is my Home by Maria Rosa Pessoa Piedade & Marilene Ribeiro (dispossession caused by the Belo Monte dam, Brazil) and In the Forest We Believe by Albertus Vembrianto (Covid-19) exacerbates migration from a coastal area affected by gold mining waste, Papua, Indonesia).

Finally, there are invitations to engage with practises and performances which inspire embodied reflection on the destruction and destabilising effects of extractivism in distanced contexts: Arabel Lebrusen’s Toxic Waves II (in response to deadly failure of a dam at the Córrego do Feijão iron ore mine in Minas Gerais, Brazil ) and Choules+Roisner’s
REGOLITHIC (in response to global extraction).

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