2020 virtual workshop

We had a wonderful workshop planned to accompany the Prague conference, but had to postpone given the COVID-19 travel restrictions. Here are the bios of the accepted participants.

Katharina Schuchardt

I am a post‐doctoral researcher in the field of cultural anthropology and currently work at the Institute for Saxon History and Cultural Anthropology in Dresden, Germany. Previously I worked at the Institute of European Ethnology/Folklore Studies at the University of Kiel, Germany, and at the Institute of German Studies at the University Poznań, Poland. Funded by the Federal Institute for Culture and History of the Germans in Eastern Europe, I received my ph. D. in Kiel in 2017 with a thesis on identity constructions of today’s German minority in Opole, Poland. My research interests are studies on environmental change, minorities, identity and borders. Currently I am working on the question of how to deal with the future energy supply in Lusatia, but also in Germany and Poland, in the context of the phasing out

of German lignite mining. The focus here is on the actors involved in this process and living in the region and their subjective perspectives, because the issue of the future energy turnaround is emotionally charged (not only) on both sides of the border. This leads to specific patterns of perception among the actors who experience, evaluate and imagine future changes in the region.

Tamara Alvarez

Tamara Alvarez is a PhD Anthropology Candidate at the New School for Social Research. Her dissertation, “The Eighth Continent: An Ethnography of 21st century Euro‐American Plans to Settle the Moon” examines the technopolitical, scientific, and legal practices transforming the Moon into a settleable land and a resource frontier. Tamara’s work is based on a 4‐year ethnographic and collaborative research at the European Space Agency and various international space forums, including the United Nations Committee for Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and The Hague International Space Resources Governance Working Group. Her research has been funded by Fulbright, NSF, and La Caixa Foundation. Tamara’s book project, “Moonrise,” expands her dissertation with an exploration of the Moon’s influence on terrestrial ecologies. She has taught at CUNY and The New School and has given lectures at Moscow’s Strelka Institute, the European Space Research and Technology Center, and Collège de France. Tamara is co‐editor of “Deterrestrializing Space and Place,” a Society and Space forum forthcoming 2020.

Susana Carmona

Dr Susana Carmona is a lecturer in the Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany where she is associated with the RUSTLab and is conducting her postdoctoral research about water governance in contexts of extractivism. She finished her doctoral studies in anthropology in 2019 at the University of Los Andes, Colombia, and she also holds a master’s degree in socio‐ spatial studies. Her research is situated between the intersection of the anthropology of development and resource extraction, political ecology and science and technology studies. She is interested in the role of expert knowledge in shaping the contexts of resource extraction, the controversies surrounding coal mining and the transnational networks of activism. Recently, she has been exploring how we can collaborate with ethnic groups for more effective participation in water governance and food security policies in contexts of resource extraction dependance. She has conducted ethnographic work mainly in the region of La Guajira, in Northern Colombia. During her doctoral research, she explored the case of the Cerrejón coal mine in La Guajira, focusing in the co‐production between the mine and the region and reflecting on how the mine’s life cycle is linked to the imaginations of the post‐ extractive future.

Tobias Olofsson

Tobias Olofsson is a PhD candidate at the Department of Sociology, Uppsala University and writes his thesis on prediction making, valuation, and justification in mineral exploration.

Working in the intersection of valuation studies, economic sociology, and the sociology of the future, Olofsson’s primary interests concerns how present futures are constructed in prediction making with particular reference to the valuations involved in measuring and projecting trends in the past and present into the future as well as how actors justify the accuracy and desirability of predicted futures.

Martin David

Generally interested in all kind of issues around societal transformations and change, I currently look at problems related to the inscription of pasts and futures in research projects for mining technology development. This includes, for instance, the representation of imagined publics in exploration technology development.

Trained in political sciences (development policy, international relations, European studies), I soon discovered my interest in environmental sociology. In my PhD I focused on the creation of experimental knowledge in renewable energy initiatives and how it links to sociotechnical applications and started following approaches rooted in relational sociology. Currently, I am involved in the Project GORmin, at the Helmholtz‐Centre for Environmental Research, Department Urban and Environmental Sociology. This gives me the chance to further develop my approach.

Zahra Hussain:

Zahra Hussain is a cultural geographer and an architect who leads the organisation Laajverd in Pakistan that works at the intersections of culture, environment and development. Hussain developed the concept of Academy for Democracy under which she initiated Laajverd Visiting School Project, an interdisciplinary and cross‐curricular intensive based in sites of conflicts, crisis and disasters bringing together academics, local communities and professionals to exchange with dialogue on shared futures. LVS is a task‐based, challenge‐led process of actors learning from locals and each other across backgrounds and interests producing varied outputs ranging from publications to community museums. Her research focuses on documentation and protection of cultural landscapes, namely community‐based heritage conservation which has led her to develop craft catalogs, curate community museums in post disaster and post conflict zones. She has a BA in Architecture Design from National College of Arts, Pakistan, and a PHD in Cultural Geography from Durham University, UK. Currently, she is Research Fellow on the GCRF ‘Gender Justice and Security Hub’ led by the LSE in London, UK and a Regional partner on the GCRF Resilient Silk Route Heritage Network.

Kirk Jalbert

Kirk Jalbert is an assistant professor in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society with a joint appointment in the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering at Arizona State University. He is also a JPB Environmental Health Fellow with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. His research broadly addresses how civic engagements with environmental governance are shaped by public perceptions and uses of science and technology, particularly in natural resource extraction debates. At ASU, Jalbert directs the Civic Science for Environmental Futures Collaborative, a research space exploring participatory action research projects with communities working to create more equitable environment futures. Prior to joining ASU, Jalbert worked in the nonprofit sector facilitating data transparency, critical mapping, and digital storytelling projects related to shale gas extraction and pipeline impacts.

Andrea Marston

I am in my first year as an Assistant Professor of Geography at Rutgers University, in New Jersey. I completed my PhD in Geography at the University of California, Berkeley, in summer 2019. My current research offers a material history of the subterranean – particularly the metal tin ‐ through ethnographic and historical research with small‐scale miners in the Bolivian highlands. I am also in the process of setting up a new project that examines historical and current transfers of extractive technology and political philosophies between southwest China and the Andes. Prior to the PhD, I studied community water governance in peri‐urban Cochabamba, Bolivia as part of my MA in Geography at the University of British Columbia. I also taught community‐based research methodology in the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University from 2009‐10.

I participated in the STS underground workshop in 2018 in Sydney and found it immensely helpful in terms of building intellectual community, getting a sense of how my research findings resonate with (or not) experiences from other parts of the world, and in broadening my understanding of what critical STS can look like. I would welcome the opportunity to participate in the 2020 workshop, though of course I understand if you decide to accept people who haven’t yet had a chance to participate. I am especially looking forward to the chance to share works in process and to deepen my connection to the emerging STS Underground network.

Marieke Meesters

I am interested in the nexus of extractivism, social movements and conflict, and ecological practices. Trained as a mainstream criminologist, I turned to a more critical approach in my master studies Environmental Criminology (Utrecht University) and Forest and Nature Conservation Policy (Wageningen University), engaging with critical criminology and political ecology. In my PhD at the Wageningen University, I engage with feminist new materialist theories and more‐than‐human geography to explore caring assemblages in a wide range of extractivist practices, mainly those in the Dutch Wadden Sea. I am also interested in the intersections of marginalisation related to intensive animal farming as research topics.

Furthermore, I take part in Extinction Rebellion Agriculture Netherlands, focusing on building ‘a movement of movements’ through direct and creative actions while learning about and with agroecological practices and soil care in The Netherlands. Agroecology studies, practices and advocates for an affective agricultural practice that is about other ways of relating with works with the more‐than‐human communities, about working together in the assemblage rather than fighting particular other‐than‐human actors.

Nicole Gooch

Nicole specialises in environmental media and public engagement in the Pacific and is researching a doctorate about extraction industries in New Caledonia, where she was born. Her PhD in Communication at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) is using journalism as a research practice in combination with political ecology to produce a multi‐dimensional investigation into Vale’s high pressure acid leaching nickel smelter in the south of New Caledonia.

Nicole has postgraduate qualifications in journalism and international development studies and is assistant editor of the Pacific Journalism Review, published by the Pacific Media Centre at Auckland University of Technology. She is also a tutor in Communicating Health and Science and Environmental Communication at UTS. As a freelance journalist Nicole won numerous awards, including as co‐producer of the radio‐documentary feature “La Révolte des Prostituées” (2015) for Radio France and Radio Belgium. Before then she worked for seven years as communications officer in the public health division and in the gender programme of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), an intergovernmental development organisation serving 22 Pacific Island countries and territories.

Jonas Köppel

I am a third year PhD candidate in anthropology and sociology at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland. In my research I take an ethnographic approach to the chemical element lithium, drawing on work in the anthropology of science and materiality. Focusing on how scientists attend to lithium in practice I seek to enrich the picture of the currently booming mineral. In particular, I engage with scientists in the Bolivian lithium industry, who are busy developing industrial scale processes to extract lithium from the chemically complex brine pumped from below the huge surface of the Uyuni salt flat and turn it into batteries. My work focuses on how these scientists are caught up in the complex technopolitics of Bolivian lithium industrialization. On one hand, they meet significant technical challenges working in a field of expertise that is complex and still emerging. On the other hand, they are constantly confronted with the politicized nature of lithium, being part of a project that is of strategic importance to both the country’s government and global industry. How they make sense of and negotiate these often conflicting realities lies at the heart of my research. I am currently on fieldwork in Bolivia, which I will have concluded by mid‐July 2020.

David Kneas

This research project builds on long‐term fieldwork on conflicts over proposed copper mining in northwestern Ecuador. Much of the published material from this research has revolved around questions of temporality. This includes work on the time‐scales promoted by a junior mining company in its efforts to appeal to investors and to assuage concerns of environmental harm (Kneas 2016). I have likewise considered the social spaces that emerged in between the presence of mining companies (Kneas 2018a), as well as the agrarian roots that underpin current divides between pro and anti‐mining groups (under review with Journal of Peasant Studies). I have also analyzed the process through which the Ecuadorian underground has come to be seen as a domain of resource potential (Kneas, 2017, 2018b). Over the past few years, I have been developing a new arena of research centered on the junior mining industry, with a focus on the dynamics of storytelling through which junior companies outline prospects of mineral potential. Based on research at mining industry conferences, I have one article under review with Geoforum (on the location of resource potential) and am currently examining particular biographies of mineral geologists and junior companies, with a focus on hindered or failed projects.

Edwin Smitt

Edwin (Eddie) Schmitt trained as an Environmental Anthropologist with a focus on applied, linguistic and historical topics. He received an Applied Anthropology MA from Oregon State University and an Anthropology Ph.D. from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. His past research interests included commodification of agriculture and cultural heritage, linkages between agricultural and religious systems, ethnic tourism and hydropower development in Southwest China. His doctoral research looked at the rise of environmental consciousness in the city of Chengdu. As a postdoc at the University of Oslo he examined the political power structures in Chinese society through historical case studies on the generation of electricity from coal, hydro and solar sources. Although much of his work has dealt with theoretical issues around culture, ecology and power, he purposely designs his projects to have an applied angle in the hope that what he learns can be beneficial to the communities he studies. His new position at the Norwegian Institute of Cultural Heritage Research began in January 2020 where his current focus is on creating interdisciplinary decision‐making frameworks for analyzing the impacts of cultural heritage around the world. He is also developing a project on Protest Heritage in Hong Kong, Oslo and Seattle.


Cynthia Browne

In addition to being a research associate at the Ruhr University in Bochum working on a project on loss of hearing among miners. I am also a 2020‐21 post‐doctoral research fellow with the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam, Germany. The transdisciplinary approach of the Institute seeks to bridge scientists, policy‐makers, and the political community to generative positive change towards a more sustainable and just future.  There I am closely connected to the already existing research team on Social Transformation in the Lausitz region, and am being supported to begin a new research project entitled “A Matter of Landscape: Tracing the Material Legacies of Mining in the Lausitz.” This project deepens my research focus on workers’ experiences of de‐ industrialization through a materialist approach to landscape, memory, and the legacies of environmental toxicity, which first emerged out of my doctoral field research on art and structural change in the Ruhr region of Germany. That research, which focused more on artists and designers in remediatin and re‐making the industrial “wastelands” of the Ruhr, culminated in a successful thesis defense in the department of social/cultural anthropology at Harvard University (with a secondary field in Critical Media Practice) in 2018.

Caroline White‐Nockleby

I first became interested in the intersections between temporality, subterranean dynamics, and environmental justice as an undergraduate at Williams College, where I majored in Geology and American Studies. While at Williams, I researched the impacts of the contamination of PFOA – a carcinogenic chemical used in Teflon plastics manufacturing – in local drinking water. Residents’ experiences, I found, were intertwined with the uncertain, plural timescales along which the ‘event’ of pollution had, and would continue to, spread. After graduating, I worked at a climate advocacy organization, to help start a program in climate resilience in Boston. Building on a prior semester in northern Argentina, in 2018, I participated in a Fulbright fellowship in northern Chile to analyze the efficacy of efforts to conserve bofedales, regionally vital wetlands threatened by mining and climate change. I continued researching the impacts of extraction in 2019, while pursuing an M.Phil. at the University of Cambridge. I entered the MIT HASTS Ph.D program this fall. During my doctoral research, I am committed to collaborating, through advocacy and grounded scholarship, with communities impacted by mining. This January, for instance, I interned with the Center for Coalfield Justice, an organization that supports Pennsylvania residents impacted by fossil fuels extraction.

Diana Ayeh

Having studied political science, African studies, and international development in Leipzig (Germany), Bordeaux (France), and Berlin (Germany), I completed my PhD thesis in January 2020 on industrial gold mining in Burkina Faso. Since 2016, I worked as a junior researcher in the Collaborative Research Center “Processes of Spatialization under the Global Condition” at the University of Leipzig. My PhD thesis entitled “Spaces of responsibility – Negotiating industrial Gold Mining in Burkina Faso” discusses multi‐scalar dimensions of mining governance in an era of “corporate responsibility”. For that matter, I conducted 12 months of multi‐sited ethnographic field research in Burkina Faso, Canada and Germany. Among other aspects, I studied socio‐technical aspects of concession‐making using the example of an open pit and an underground mining project in western Burkina Faso. I conducted research inside and outside the corporate fence respectively and partially in close collaboration with the CSR department of a Canadian mining company. From April 2020, I will become a member of the research group GORmin (Governance Options for acceptable primary and secondary Scarce‐Resource mining in Germany) and a research project on resource extraction from mining tailings at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ).