This lecture will examine the importance of viewing current green energy technologies within longer histories of extractivism, resource utopianism, and geopolitical conflict. Based on four years of ethnographic and historical research on Bolivia’s contested efforts to industrialize the country’s massive lithium reserves, which are destined for use in batteries and electric vehicles, the talk will situate this ongoing project against a number of earlier histories. Understanding the technologies of the green energy transition within wider resource geopolitics brings much-needed nuance and caution to contemporary debates over climate crisis mitigation and energy policy-making.
Mark Goodale is currently a Leverhulme Trust Visiting Professor in the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography (SAME) and a member of St Antony’s College at the University of Oxford. He is also Professor of Cultural and Social Anthropology and Director of the Laboratory of Cultural and Social Anthropology (LACS) at the University of Lausanne. He recently completed a four-year research project funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation on the relationship between lithium extraction and the contradictions of the wider green energy transition. During the academic year 2023-2024, he is writing a book based on this research for the University of California Press.