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New Strategies: Extractivist Corporations, Communities, and the State in a Post-COVID World

January 27 @ 9:30 am 11:30 am

The Extractivism and Society Research Cluster is organizing a four-part series entitled “Conversations on Extractivism in a Post-Pandemic World.” The second of these conversations will take place on January 27. The series will continue over winter and spring quarter.

Description:

The struggles of social movements and communities against extractive multinational corporations have stalled or cancelled major projects, threatening company profits. In response, corporations have developed new strategies to undermine the opposition to their projects. Join us for a panel discussion with leading academic and policy researchers on these new strategies that extractive industry corporations have developed to secure and expand their operations despite organized resistance to mining, drilling, and other megaprojects.

Panelists:

Anna Zalik: Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, York University

Jennifer Moore: Associate Fellow of Global Economy, Institute for Policy Studies

Maiah Jaskoski: Associate Professor of Political Science, Northern Arizona University

Fernando Leiva: Professor of Latin America and Latino Studies, UC Santa Cruz

Background:

Over the last few decades, resistance to mega-projects has grown in Latin America, especially to projects related to mining and other forms of resource extraction. In response, extractive companies have developed a set of increasingly complex strategies and discourses designed to sway the public opinion on their side and influence governments’ decisions and state institutions. From the production of counternarratives through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and the integration of United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to generate social acceptability, some multinational extractivist corporations —in partnership with the state, consultants, and academics– deploy multi-stakeholder engagement processes, new forms of managing conflicts, reinforce their territorial power, and enhance their cultural domination. In order to extract, they foster epistemic communities entirely dedicated to producing meaning, rules and subjectivities that align with their goals.

Evidence shows that the pandemic has become a springboard for such dynamics in Latin America. Multinational extractive corporations have used the ravages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic to bolster their presence. They’ve done so by supplementing the state through delivery of medical gear, medicine and food to the pandemic-affected communities that surround their exploitation sites. But they’ve mostly done so by promising that their business activities would contribute to the relaunching of economies devastated by the necessary restrictions imposed to face the pandemic.

We can identify at least three deeply entangled families of strategies at play complementing their extractive operations : 1) Meaning-making: developing international and domestic discourses that support the legitimacy of extractive activities and multinational corporations to win the support of both the society and the state; 2) Rules: integrating with and capturing state agencies to ensure extractive capital accumulation as a development model, and replacing the state in some of its functions; 3) Production of subjectivities: preventing, intervening and managing local opposition to extraction in order to create receptive and supportive communities. These are deeply entangled in the sense that at a particular site of extraction, we may find networks or assemblages of corporations, states, epistemic communities, and NGOs, operating together to secure extraction.

This panel will explore these strategies and their implications for social movements, affected communities, and resource governance in the Americas.