HASS Seminar Presentation with Tom Özden-Schilling

09 Apr 2015 10.50am to 11.35am HASS Faculty Office (Building 1, Level 4), Meeting room (1.402-36)

How is promoting potential mines for "green energy materials" in 2015 different from selling stock during a nineteenth century gold rush, ethically speaking? Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork at the corporate offices of a mineral exploration company based in Vancouver, Canada, and at geological field sites and data archives across western Canada, this talk will follow the rise and near-collapse of a small corporation devoted to promoting their proposed mine as a curative for the dominance of "conflict minerals" in the global production of "next generation" batteries and capacitors. Like other emergent "juniors," the company employs a blend of geotechnical data and site-specific narrative and imagery to "personalize" their ore body in the hopes of attracting new investors wary of the industry's associations with market scandals and environmental conflict. By focusing on how one group of geologists has struggled to position themselves and their work to meet new professional expectations while nearly failing to sustain their company financially, this talk will examine the tensions inherent in representing an "ethical commodity" in a speculative regime.

Tom Özden-Schilling is a doctoral candidate in the History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology, and Society program at MIT. Tom's historical and ethnographic research explores the consequences of institutional change and environmental politics in northern North America. Focusing on the roles played by computer models and other visual media in contemporary resource disputes, his research investigates how contested technological artifacts and data archives are changing the dynamics of professional succession in precarious settings like government resource ministries and environmental management offices run by indigenous groups.