Julie Klinger (Associate Professor, Boston University): Natural resource frontiers, territory, and ethno-national others

Meeting the challenges of the Anthropocene requires mineral commodities, many of which are designated “rare,” “strategic” or “critical.” This would suggest that the raw materials essential for building a more sustainable future are scarce, when in fact most are as abundant as copper or lead. Nevertheless, the global geography of critical natural resource prospecting, mining, and processing tends toward sensitive, conflict-ridden, protected, or otherwise legally, logistically, and financially forbidding frontier regions.  This cannot be explained by geological incidence alone. Rather, these geographies of extraction are mobilized in competing territorial agendas enacted by state and imperial power, often against the autonomy and livelihood security of ethnonational ‘others.’ Drawing on several years of field-based international research, including several years in China’s frontier regions, this course will critically examine the production of vertical and horizontal resource frontiers with the objective of enabling students to connect contemporary development dynamics with the grounded racialized geopolitics of resource extraction and the orbital politics of satellite surveillance and remote sensing. This sounds big, but the epochal challenges of our contemporary historical moment demand no less. To transform the present, we must be able to think critically on the scale and scope of human action. This means rethinking subterranean and orbital spaces not as the uncontested domain of hegemonic techno-powers, but instead as mutually constituted with the racial, territorial, and environmental politics of the Global South/East.

Required readings (PDFs will be sent to participants by e-mail):

  • Yusoff, Kathryn. 2019. A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None. University of Minnesota Press. Chapter 1:  Geology, Race, and Matter (pp. 1-22).
  • Klinger, Julie Michelle. 2017 Rare Earth Frontiers: From Terrestrial Subsoils to Lunar Landscapes. Cornell University Press.  Chapter 1: What are Rare Earth Elements? (pp. 41-67) & excerpt from Chapter 3: “Welcome to the Hometown of Rare Earths” pp. 117 – 136.
  • Klinger, Julie Michelle. 2019. Environment, Development, and Security Politics in the Production of Belt and Road Spaces. Territory, Politics, Governance.

Reading Guidelines: In keeping with the objective of developing South-Eastern thought, the readings for this lecture bring together theory and research on the intersection of resource extraction and race in the Americas and East Asia. When reading these pieces, I urge students to begin with Kathryn Yusoff. This is worth a long, slow, and perhaps even repeated reads in order to develop the epistemological framework for drawing natural resources and geology into our theorizations on race, sovereignties, and South-Eastern thought.  This also sets the ontological and epistemological framework for analysis by defining geology as a racialized tool of empire and nation-building. To focus more specifically on critical energy and technology elements, the students should then proceed with the excerpts from my book. Although the historical discussion is focused on China, we should think with Yusoff in order to see how overlapping racial hierarchies and competing empires used geology to advance territorial agendas in the 20th century. The second excerpt from the book links with the assigned article to tell the story of how geology serves as a key means through which China’s Belt and Road Initiative is expressed with Central Asian partner states. Together, these readings will help students develop a global yet grounded understanding on the relational production and destruction of natural resource frontiers, territory, and ethnonational “others.”

Daniela Gabor (Professor, UWE Bristol) and Cornel Ban
(Associate Professor, Coppenhagen Business School): Greening the economic model and sovereignty

The climate crisis is here. It has erupted on the political scene, from a Green wave sweeping European elections in May 2019, to school children protesting in the street, and political parties promising immediate measures to tackle it. Let’s green capitalism, it is now commonly argued, through Green New Deal type initiatives that revive the state’s industrial policy capacity to engineer the transition to a low carbon economy. Yet the methodological nationalism, and the implication of economic sovereignty, at the core of these debates is misleading. The political economy of greening capitalism has three critical dimensions: a) carbon colonialism through regimes of ‘accumulation by decarbonization’ that negatively impact poor countries; b) the power of global finance to design sophisticated ways of extracting value from and through the environment, as expressed in the growing importance of Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) ratings and c) the structural power of mobile industrial capital combined with workers’ resistance to (injust) transitions to low-carbon economies. What are the conditions under which a green developmental state can confront these challenges? What does economic sovereignty mean in the age of climate crises?

The second part of the lecture focuses on sovereignty and the climate crisis and asks two questions. First, to what extent can expanded public financial institutions can provide the massive funding needs of the transition to a decarbonized transport and energy infrastructure? To answer this question the lectures will focus on the green record of the largest national development banks in the world (currently based in Germany, China, Brazil and Korea) as well as on one of the largest sovereign wealth funds (Norway’s). Second, the lectures will ask what are the political conditions under which such public financial institutions could be expanded and have their mandates rewritten in lines with the urgency of the climate crisis and the need to mitigate the catastrophe in ways that are not regressive for ordinary people.

Manuela Boatcă (Professor, Albert-Ludwigs-Universitat Freiburg): Extended Statehood, Sovereignty Games, and Inter-Imperiality. Creolizing the Nation-State Norm

Mainstream historiography and social science still view the rise of nation-states as the gradual overcoming of multinational political organizations and multiethnic empires throughout the world. Empires and nation-states are accordingly viewed as mutually exclusive and chronologically discrete political formations, while the nation-state remains the modern norm of statehood. The Habsburg, the Ottoman, and the Tsarist Empires, powerful global actors until well into the twentieth-century, are explained away as anachronistic survivals of the old order in the face of mounting national challenges. 

In spite of ample evidence for the coexistence of imperial and national state structures in the nineteenth century and most of the twentieth, the dominant view is that they no longer coexist in the twenty-first. Dozens of state formations which are still colonized in the twenty-first century, such as Europe’s and the United States’ outermost regions and overseas territories, continue to be viewed as exceptions from the above trajectory from empire to nation and as anomalies in a modern world of sovereign nation-states, while their inhabitants retain colonial citizenships and unequal rights with respect to their counterparts in the metropole.

The class engages with the growing literature that tries to capture the paradoxical logic behind the functioning of state structures in nonindependent territories such as the Caribbean using concepts such as “extended statehood” (De Jong and Kruijt 2005), “postcolonial sovereignty games” (Adler-Nissen and Gad 2013), or “non-sovereign futures” (Bonilla 2015) as well as in Eastern Europe and Asia with the helpf of notions such as “inter-imperiality” (Doyle 2010). On this basis, we discuss how such notions help rethink and reposition the norm of the nation-state within the history of modernity in both Southern and Eastern (European) contexts.

Reading list:

  • Adler-Nissen, Rebecca, and Ulrik P. Gad. 2013. European Integration and Postcolonial
  • Sovereignty Games: The eu Overseas Countries and Territories. London: Routledge.
  • Bonilla, Yarimar. 2015. Non-sovereign Futures: French Caribbean Politics in the Wake of Disenchantment. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Cooper, F. 2005. Colonialism in Question: Theory, Knowledge, History. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • De Jong, Lambert, and Dirk Kruijt. 2005. Extended Statehood in the Caribbean: Paradoxes of Quasi Colonialism, Local Autonomy, and Extended Statehood in the USA, French, Dutch, and British Caribbean. Amsterdam: Rozenberg.
  • Doyle, Laura. 2018. Thinking Back through Empires. Modernism/modernity 2, no. 4.

Marius Turda (Professor, Oxford Brookes University): Biopolitics, the Body of the Nation and the Destiny of Individual

Biopolitics represents of the individual and the collective as living organisms, functioning according to biological and hereditary laws under the protection of the eugenic nation-state. To fulfil its promises, biopolitics places the nation within a scientific realm, one whose legitimacy stems from the dual claim that eugenics can improve the “health of the population” and should protect the “racial qualities of the nation”. As nation states become increasingly obsessed with their historical destiny, namely to create the ideal nation, which is was racially, spiritually and linguistically homogeneous, they also resort to coercive mechanisms — such as stigmatisation, discrimination, segregation, and ultimately cleansing — in order to protect their own members and eliminate those who were socially, ethnically and sexually different.

In this seminar, I discuss the cluster of biopolitical ideas developing during the first decades of the twentieth century, whose main goal was the creation of a healthy nation, a process predicated upon protecting racial qualities deemed superior and upon introducing preventive measures against dysgenic individuals and/or racial groups perceived as inferior, and consequently a threat to the nation.

Reading list:

  • Marius Turda, ‘Sub-Cultures and Narratives of Race in Hungary,’ Cah Etud Hong Finl. (2015) :229-241.
  • Marius Turda, ‘In Pursuit of Greater Hungary: Eugenic Ideas of Social and Biological Improvement, 1940-1941,’ J Mod Hist. (2013):558-591.
  • Marius Turda, ‘In search of racial types: soldiers and the anthropological mapping of the Romanian nation, 1914-44,’ Patterns Prejudice (2013)
  • Marius Turda, ‘”To end the degeneration of a nation”: debates on eugenic sterilization in inter-war Romania,’ Med Hist. (2009):77-104.
  • Marius Turda, Modernism and Eugenics (2010).

Don Kalb (Professor, University of Bergen): Dignity, deservingness, worth, and worthlessness: vernacular claims and their contradictions in the global South and East

What are the emic and vernacular symbolic themes that feed into current political turbulences? I will discuss four notions: Dignity, deservingness, worth and worthlessness. I will also look at their use and at their contradictions, important as these are for the worldwide mobilisations that are not at their end yet. Recent ethnographic research has shown that all four play a subtle and central role in the making of explicit or implicit claims on political arrangements and their futures at the end of an epoch of liberal capitalist globalism. I will discuss this research and point to ongoing issues.

Required readings (PDFs will be sent to participants by e-mail)

  • Jaume Franquesa (2019) The vanishing exception: republican and reactionary specters of populism in rural Spain, The Journal of Peasant Studies, 46:3, 537-560
  • Marcel van der Linden (2018) Workers and the Radical Right, International Labor and Working Class History, 92: Spring, 74-78
  • Ian Scoones, Marc Edelman, Saturnino M. Borras Jr., Ruth Hall, Wendy Wolford & Ben White (2017) Emancipatory rural politics: confronting authoritarian populism, The Journal of Peasant Studies
  • Noémi Gonda (2019) Land grabbing and the making of an authoritarian populist regime in Hungary, The Journal of Peasant Studies
  • Natalia Mamonova (2019) Understanding the silent majority in authoritarian populism: what can we learn from popular support for Putin in rural Russia?, The Journal of Peasant Studies
  • Don Kalb: Post-Socialist Contradictions. The Social Question in Central and Eastern Europe and the Making of the Illiberal Right

Ovidiu Țichindeleanu (Philosopher): A Decolonial Introduction into Eastern Europe: Imperial Differences, Racialization, and Resistance in the Long-Durée and Recent History

The seminar will focus on positioning the participants in relation to the historical, material and subjective itineraries of Eastern Europe as a specific region within the world of modernity/coloniality, setting imperial configurations and capitalist developments against personal experiences of racialization and existent resources of alternative resistances.

  • Țichindeleanu, Ovidiu (2016) NO to transition 2.0: Social recomposition, Decolonization and Transautonomism, Lefteast
  • Franz Fanon (2011)[1952], Prefață, Piele neagră, măști albe, Tact Publishing, 1-7
  • Țichindeleanu, Ovidiu (2010) Where are we, when we think in Eastern Europe?