Extraction Ethnographies

Extraction Ethnographies (EDS 426)

Course Overview

This course invites applications from PhD candidates interested in combining conceptual approaches with field-based research on extractive activities. This can encompass research on the mining of minerals or biological resources as well as on data mining: the extraction of materials, substances, information, and digital data from the geo- and biospheres.

The course will draw on a diverse body of scholarly work at the intersections of science and technology studies (STS), environmental anthropology and political ecology, and with a specific interest in decolonial theory, infrastructure and data studies, feminist technoscience studies and environmental humanities.

Scholars and participants will discuss the analytical and methodological possibilities of extraction ethnographies. With this concept we refer to research that focuses on processes of resource transformation, circulation and appropriation by connecting sites, following traces and empirically studying the politics of scales and scaling across cases in the Global South and North.

We revisit multilocal ethnography with a focus on the infrastructures of extractive industries, from oil platforms and pipelines, mining excavation sites and transport routes, to legal infrastructures tied to long-standing court cases, as well as digital infrastructures such as global data bases for sequence data such as GeneBank. Additionally, the course will attend to the visions, enchantments and promises of future wealth, as well as the ruins, costs and debris of modernization.

Extraction ethnographies addresses the relations enacted in practices such as prospecting and sampling, measuring, categorizing, processing, monitoring, and regulating in socio-environmental conflicts and litigations. They also analyse processes of de-materialization, de-territorialization and globalization connected to specific infrastructures and local – global (dis-)entanglements, transformations, and displacements that they generate. Research of this kind also includes engagements with forms of grassroots and activist knowledge production related to bio-social and geo-social transformations and includes the understanding of co-existing knowledge practices – techno-science, legal and TEK (traditional environmental knowledge) – that are distributed, translated, and circulated unevenly in situations of confrontation and disagreement.

Maximum number of participants: 15


If you would like to participate in this course, please apply here. Attach a short CV (maximum 4 pages). Application deadline: Tuesday 28 February.   

We have a (limited) budget that can cover travel and affordable accommodation in Oslo for applicants who do not dispose of PhD funds for external seminars and courses (see the application form). 


Participants should be enrolled in a PhD programme and have a basic understanding of social theory and qualitative research before joining the course. Other backgrounds especially relevant to the topic and the approach of the course might be accepted and will be evaluated on an individual basis. 

Learning outcomes

Participants will:

  • Become familiar with the inter-disciplinary field of social studies of science, technology and medicine, political ecology and environmental anthropology.
  • Engage with cutting-edge conceptual and methodological developments that are relevant for studying extractions.
  • Be able to contribute empirically and analytically to conceptualizing extractions across sites and locations (mining, valuation, digital).
  • Learn to work at different scales with ethnographic and other empirical materials.

Teaching period

17 – 21 April 2023. Every day from approximately 09:00 – 15:00. The course will be given once.
Participants must expect to use time prior to course start to read the relevant literature.  

Contributing scholars

Suzana Sawyer (University of California, Davis)

Tahani Nadim (Institute for European Ethnology, Humboldt University, Berlin)

Manuel Tironi (The Catholic University of Chile)

Susanne Bauer (TIK-UiO)

Ana Delgado Aleman (TIK-UiO)

Esben Leifsen (Noragric-NMBU)

Teaching Assistant and Coordinator: Beth Annwyl Roberts, NMBU 

Learning activities

The course involves presentations, conversations, discussions, practical exercises, and writing. Participants are expected to submit a written draft that will be circulated among course participants. This should be work in progress (4000-5000 words), not a finished manuscript. The paper could be an empirically based analysis, such as work toward a dissertation chapter or article draft. During the course, participants will discuss, receive, and give feedback on the paper with fellow participants and the contributing scholars. The participants’ papers should be submitted no later than Wednesday 5 April. 

Required activities for the fulfilment of the course

  • Submit a course paper prior to course start. Deadline: 5 April.
  • Present the paper during the course period.
  • Attend the entire course (1 week).
  • Read course literature.
  • Read all papers and act as main discussant for another paper.
  • Take active part in conversations and discussions during the course


Pass or fail, 5 ECTS.
Participants must complete all required activities in order to pass. 


A collection of core literature will be available in due course before we meet in April. 

Course programme (tentative)

Monday 17 April

Morning (lunch included): Collecting at the fjord.

Participants and contributing scholars take a ferry to one of the islands in the Oslo fiord and participate in an activity that introduces us to ‘extractions’ as a topic.  It includes taking notes, reflecting, and a collective dialogue, and a round where participants briefly present their research projects.

Afternoon: (back to Oslo): Conversations on Ethnography and Extractions.

Venue: Professorboligen loftet (UiO central buildings near the National Theater).

Dinner in the evening. 

The morning sessions Tuesday – Friday will be initiated by conversations between the contributing scholars, followed with an open discussion with all participants. In the afternoon sessions participants present papers and receive prepared comments, followed with plenary sharing of ideas and reflections.

Tuesday 18 April

Morning (lunch included): Collecting.

Focus on the practices of ‘taking’, ‘categorizing’, ‘labelling’, ‘ordering’ and ‘othering’.

Afternoon: Seminar with Suzana Sawyer on her latest book The small matter of suing Chevron (Duke University Press, 2022).

Venue: The whole day at campus Ås (NMBU), in the Thor Larsen room

Wednesday 19 April

Morning (lunch included): Leaving behind.

Focus on waste, left-overs, ruins and the toxic effects of extractions.

Afternoon: Course paper feedback

Venue: The whole day at University of Oslo, in HF-12, Blindern.

Thursday 20 April

Morning (lunch included): Displacing and re-siting.

Focus on how materials (or data) move from one site to another, how they can be traced, the politics of tracing and not leaving traces; including also a reflection on displacements of people and non-humans in extractivist practices. The session will be initiated by one of the contributing scholars and combined with a lab-visit where the focus will be on the extraction and circulation of data through research on biomaterial.  

Afternoon: Course paper feedback

Venue: The whole day at University of Oslo, in HF-12, Blindern. 

Dinner in the evening.

Friday 21 April

Morning (lunch included): Transforming and storing.

Focus on how new geo-social assemblages come into being through the transforming of extraction sites, and also on how materials are transformed and where they end up, under which conditions they are kept or shared, and on forms of access and exclusions which are generated in these movements.

Early afternoon: Guy Kastler from Via Campesina talks about the organization’s alternative and democratic uses of and views on Digital Sequence Information.

Afternoon: Course paper feedback

Venue: The whole day at University of Oslo, HF-12, Blindern. 

Published 27. January 2023 - 13:23 - Updated 7. February 2023 - 11:43