Speaker: Dr Sally Babidge is an anthropologist and Senior Lecturer in the School of Social Science at the University of Queensland.

Her research on the social and ecological effects of the extraction industries (copper and lithium mining) and Indigenous Peoples' engagement with the industry over water extraction in Chile has been published in a range of international journals in anthropology and the humanities (see recent articles here and here). She is also the author of Aboriginal family and the state: The conditions of history (Ashgate 2010), and Written true, not gammon! A history of Aboriginal Charters Towers (Black Ink, 2007), based on engaged work with Aboriginal peoples in northern Queensland.

Title: Water's relations: extractivism, ethics, and ecology in the Salar de Atacama, Chile

The title of the paper is drawn from Sally's book, which is currently in the final stages of preparation for publication. The book examines the moral and ecological dynamics of extractivism and Indigenous politics in northern Chile.

In much of the first twenty five years of extractive activity, relations between Indigenous communities in the Salar de Atacama (northern Chile) and mining companies were characterised less by public conflict -- over, for example, water extraction and ecological harms of industry -- than a muted wrangling about the terms and extent of extraction, potential ecological harm, and ‘community development’ projects proposed, begun, and sometimes delivered by the industry. How did the ecological conflicts characteristic of mining globally remain muted for so many years in the Salar, and then why have they risen to the surface? This book relies on ethnographic research in the Salar de Atacama over a period of ten years, focused on the extraction industry, Atacameño peoples, and water. It is centrally concerned with how relations between industry and Indigenous communities in the desert are also relations mediated by water sources of different kinds. The book pays attention to the ways in which the contested characteristics and contingent effects of ecological things, especially water, play a role in the relations among people. What might this view of water as an active force in mining industry and Indigenous Peoples’ relations reveal about the potential for life to flourish, endure mere survival in extractive encounters, or experience gross injustice? 

About Latin American Studies Seminar Series

The aim of the Latin American Studies Seminar series at UQ is to create a space for independent researchers, post-graduate students and academic staff conducting research on Latin America in the humanities and social sciences in order to share the outcomes of their research.

If you are interested in presenting in our series, please contact either Dr Roberto Esposto or Dr Sol Rojas-Lizana.

Seminars are held regularly and are free to attend. UQ staff and students, staff and students from other universities, and members of the general public are welcome to attend. If you would like to be included on our mailing list, please contact the SLC Events team via email.

We look forward to seeing you at our first seminar of the semester!


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