Dr James Van Alstine’s visit

The Environmental Politics group welcomed its first non-Aberystwyth guest speaker on Monday the 2nd of May. Dr Van Alstine presented his research on communities living in resource-rich regions. His research aims to offer practical solutions to communities in order for them to maximize the benefits of the extraction process through negotiation with companies and local authorities. James provided a detailed account of the empirical research that had been conducted to date, and the techniques employed to survey and engage local communities, particularly in regard to oil extraction in Uganda and Ghana.

The presentation raised a lot of interesting questions from the floor. A number of participants were concerned with the degree of anthropological and ethnographic work undertaken prior to community surveying. Dr Van Alstine indicated that the sociological approaches of Anthony Giddens and Pierre Bourdieu had shaped his theoretical approach to the subject, and particularly for a Bourdieusian-informed analysis, detailed awareness of the social and political dynamics shaping the distribution of resources and opinion towards resource extraction would seem vital. I also asked how easy it was to remain critical when the project was sponsored by the Alcoa foundation. In his response, James highlighted his interest in applied research and in finding practical ways to aid local communities benefit from the extraction process. This was followed by a question as to whether the best course of action for local communities, and thus the policy advice born out of the study, might be for such communities to protest against any planned resource extraction. These were difficult questions that were answered thoughtfully, leaving us all to ponder why we do what we do and whose purpose it serves.

In all it was a very interesting discussion and I hope that James got as much out of the day as we did…


About Hannah Hughes

I am a lecturer in the School of Law and Politics. My research interests stem from my concern with environmental degradation and include: Climate change; knowledge and power; global environmental politics; environmental security
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3 Responses to Dr James Van Alstine’s visit

  1. katharinahoene says:

    Thanks for the great summary. I really enjoyed our meeting and the conversations that followed. Hope we can keep this up and expand on it next year.

  2. Env Pol RG says:

    Here is the link to Dr. Alstine’s university website, for those who want to explore more. http://www.see.leeds.ac.uk/people/j.vanalstine

  3. Katherine says:

    Thanks for posting about this Hannah. I unfortunately had to leave before the question time and was interested to hear about what people had asked.

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