Extraction and Disposal in Expressive Culture

The extraction of natural goods – water, rock, metals, minerals, the bodies of plants and animals – is a key moment in the human relationship to the more-than-human world. The same can be said of its inverse, disposal. Both extraction and disposal are socially contested sites. The environmental justice movement grew out of opposition of black and brown communities to unjust and racist practices of disposal in which landfills and other toxic dumping sites were located overwhelmingly in or near these communities. Indigenous communities have been especially prominent leaders in protest movements against extraction, most notably in the form of oil and gas pipelines.

These important movements invite further study as moments of expressive culture imaging and enacting alternatives to present practices of extraction and disposal – and thereby making visible the violence and toxicity funded by capitalist, colonial, and racist power structures. We invite proposals that consider how expressive cultures, including protests, engage extraction and disposal to understand, criticize, and reimagine ways of life. How can the study of these movements teach us to think beyond extractivism and throwaway culture? How do they challenge prevailing practices of ownership, possession, and privatization? How do they illuminate the ways in which current aesthetic forms and standards are bound up with extractivism and throwaway culture?

Work on this theme can take many forms, including the study of:

  • ritual and other sacred art forms that document histories and practices of resource extraction and disposal
  • acts of protest and resistance that highlight the damaging effects of social and economic extraction and disposal
  • the way aesthetic forms reflect dominant practices of extraction and disposal in colonial and post-colonial contexts
  • artistic uses of trash and other extracted and disposed goods that resist dominant forms of extraction and disposal and imagine alternatives
  • projects to repatriate extracted archives of indigenous knowledge and practice and research of artistic practices that present new forms of self-possession in religious and indigenous communities, among other perspectives.

Through a focus on forms of expressive culture, this theme considers the place of extraction and disposal in the dominant social imaginary and the way practices of resistance to unjust extraction and disposal imagine and enact alternatives.

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