2021 Rethinking Extractivist Capitalism
Extractivism – traditionally understood as the over-exploitation of natural resources – has led to irreversible environmental damage and the destruction of livelihoods across the globe. While these forms of primitive accumulation have historically been key to colonial exploitation of the Global South, we are currently witnessing an expansion of multiple forms of extractivism. Reimagined as a developmental and even emancipatory strategy, extractivism has increasingly been implemented by states, private firms, local and traditional authorities, and networks of experts in order to capture and distribute high rents, while in fact deepening legacies of colonial dependencies. However, extractivism has also extended beyond the plundering of raw materials to cultural or non-material resources, e.g. in the form of extensive tourism, or “data-mining”. Hence, today, extractivism has come to signify a global logic of current capitalist accumulation and valorisation which differs decisively from industrial capitalism. To secure the appropriation of rent, these different forms of extractivism are flanked by various violent and authoritarian state practices, often reinstating racist and (settler) colonial orders, erasing indigenous claims to land, large-scale dispossession and displacement, severe human rights violations, unsafe labour conditions, surveillance, and forced migration.
The Autumn Research School
This six-day interdisciplinary Autumn Research School aims at mapping the different forms of extractivist capitalism across transnational spaces and emerging relational geographies including current developments in finance, logistics and digital economies. Such a mapping requires a “retooling” of theories, analytical frameworks, and methodologies that help us engage with the multiple contradictions of this particular logic of capitalism – in particular to rethink the Global South into this logic. To do so, the Autumn School will address the political economy of extractivist accumulation, its ecological and social implications, the attendant transformations of (post-)colonial knowledge, juridical and political re-orderings and authoritarian tendencies, discursive and cultural practices of legitimation, and ultimately questions of dissent, protest and resistance. The Autumn School offers participants an outstanding programme with faculty members including Deval Desai, Michael Flitner, Michi Knecht, Sandro Mezzadra, Martin Nonhoff, Shalini Randeria, Ranabir Samaddar, Klaus Schlichte, Ingo H. Warnke and Ruth Wodak. It is composed of six content modules, plus a hands-on research design workshop module and includes lectures, Q&A-sessions, interactive small-group roundtable sessions, micro-group sessions, and plenary debate.
The Young International Scholars Autumn Research School is organized by University Bremen Excellence Chair Prof. Dr. Shalini Randeria, Research Group “Soft Authoritarianisms”, Worlds of Contradictions (WoC) and funded by the University of Bremen and WoC.
Political Economy of Extractivist Capitalism
This module provides an introduction into the key aspects of extractivism as a current mode of capitalism thus offering a solid theoretical basis for the Autumn School. It discusses the role of primitive accumulation in the history of capitalism, its re-emergence and its relation to finance and industrial capital. Elaborating on different empirical cases, it addresses the specific conditions and constellations, the dimensions of rent appropriation, the actors involved, supply chains in question as well as steering, regulation and taxation by the state. It also discusses the limits of extractivism as a developmental strategy.
Responsible Lecturers: Dr. Sandro Mezzadra and Dr. Jens Adam
Historically, primitive accumulation has been intrinsically linked to the colonial project. Contemporary capitalism reveals continuities of this colonial logic with respect to extractivism, but also discontinuities in new forms of surveillance capitalism. Based on specific case studies, this module asks how relational geographies currently emerging are in fact transforming older colonial patterns into new global configurations. This module opens up novel ways of looking at capitalism by shifting the Global South to the centre of analysis.
Responsible Lecturers: Prof. Dr. Ranabir Samaddar, Prof. Dr. Shalini Randeria, Dr. Ulrike Flader
Emerging Post-colonial Knowledge Spaces: Epistemic Practices and Political Struggles
Extractivisms – always simultaneously local and planetary in scope – generate different forms of knowledge both by scientists and local populations, but also severe, often violent struggles of appropriation and resistance. This module is interested in understanding and realigning different knowledge practices as they are conducted, related and lived by activists, academics and various local populations. The module addresses questions of protest, resistance and counter-practices towards specific forms of extractivism by working with case studies from India, Papua New Guinea and Germany. Collaboratively facilitated with activists and anthropologists who are involved in protests against deep sea mining, deforestation and coal mining this module provides another avenue to decolonize certain ways of thinking today’s forms of capitalism. It highlights the contradictions, the social, cultural and epistemic implications of extractivist accumulation as well as the strategies and visions of activists and academics in their struggles against extractivism.
Responsible Lecturers: Dr. Deval Desai and Dr. Hannah Franzki
Land and Food
This module addresses the crucial issue of increased pressure on land holding stemming from ever more globalized agricultural markets. How are global market dynamics and local food production related? What do colonial heritages have to do with current demand for land and cases of land-grabbing? We will look at global tendencies and local constellations on the countryside at the same time.
Responsible Lecturers: Dr. Martin Reisigl and Prof. Dr. Ruth Wodak
Juridical & Political Reorderings: Modes of Governing Extractivist Economies
The aim of this fifth module is to analyse the political and legal transformations linked to the increase in extractivism in certain countries. It discusses what kind of juridical re-orderings are undertaken on the level of access and property rights in order to make land available to exploitation through transnational and local companies. It addresses the human rights violations, forced displacement and dispossessions as well as unsafe labour conditions, also asking how legal regulations reinstate colonial orders and racist logics. It discusses the political conditions and changes, the repression towards opposition and dissent, as well as the politics of securitization, engaging with the questions: does extractivism necessarily entail authoritarian modes of government? How “softly” can these forms of authoritarianism be implemented using the law?
Responsible Lecturers: Prof. Dr. Michi Knecht, Prof. Dr. Stuart Kirsch (tbc), Alan Robert Robson and members of environmental NGOs in PNG and Germany
Discursive Practices of Legitimization
Extractivism as a dominant paradigm of capitalism today and the legal and political transformations that it triggers are embedded in a variety of discourses. These can range from regional narratives on the right to exploit the land to national myths erasing existing histories or even broader discourses on individualism and private property which all serve to legitimize and normalize the measures. This module engages with examples of such discourses, the knowledges they (re-)produce and the practices they entail.
Responsible Lecturers: Prof. Dr. Klaus Schlichte, Alex Nadège Ouedraogo and Anna Wolkenhauer
Research Design & Proposal Writing Workshop
This module is designed as a hands-on workshop to promote skills in conceptualizing and designing research and writing proposals accordingly. It specifically aims at MA-participants or those at the beginning of the PhDs, who would like to improve their research design, and will be useful for academics at all stages. The workshop will be run in cooperation with members of the department for doctoral and postdoctoral support BYRD, University of Bremen.
Responsible Lecturers: Jörn Weinhold
Prof. Sandro Mezzadra - Political Economy of Extractivist Capitalism
09 October 2021
Prof. Ranabir Samaddar - Colonial Legacies
16 October 2021
Dr. Martin Reisigl & Prof.Dr. Ruth Wodak -Crisis & Climate: Discursives Perspectives
16 October 2021
Modul 6 - Land and Food
30 October 2021