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Environmental Histories of Resource Extraction in Africa: Understanding Cultural and Political Responses to Environmental Transformation


Resource extraction industries have propelled environmental transformation across Africa, most notably between 1950 and 2020. The undeniably dramatic effects of mining and oil drilling on landscapes and lifeworlds have elicited radically divergent cultural and political responses, from apparent acquiescence to violent protest and accusations of ecocide. Yet the nature of the relationship between environmental change and human response in African localities remains extremely poorly conceptualised. AFREXTRACT addresses this gap by analysing how various actors in three emblematic sites - the Witwatersrand, the Copperbelt and the Niger Delta - have experienced and responded to environmental change. The first study to investigate this comprehensively and comparatively, AFREXTRACT demonstrates that insights from environmental history, political ecology and environmental humanities are crucial to topical debates about coloniality/decoloniality and the Anthropocene.
Our main objectives are: 1) to identify the causal factors informing human response to environmental transformation through three in-depth case studies (gold mining in South Africa; copper mining in Zambia; oil drilling in Nigeria); 2) to analyse how cultural expression (specifically literature and music) has made sense of environmental change; 3) to conceptualise varieties of environmentalism beyond a binary of resistance and resignation. AFREXTRACT will combine archival research with oral history, literary analysis and ethnomusicology to document changing values regarding the environment. A new analytical framework will facilitate engagement with global discussions about extractivism, colonialism/postcolonialism, environmental inequality and climate change. As resource extraction and its toxic legacies are set to continue, a historical understanding of these issues is imperative.


Net EU contribution
€ 1 498 778,00
Broerstraat 5
9712CP Groningen

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Noord-Nederland Groningen Overig Groningen
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Non-EU contribution
€ 0,00