In this special issue on ‘extraction’, we think critically about two urgent and entangled questions, examining the political economy of mining and Indigenous interests in Australia, and the moral economy of Indigenous cultural difference within Cultural Studies and Anthropology. In settler colonial states such as Australia, Indigenous cultural difference is now routinely presented as commensurate with, rather than obstructive of, extractive industry activity. Meanwhile, the renewed interest in ‘radical alterity’ across these disciplines has seen a movement away from regarding authoritative claims about ‘others’ as morally suspect – as only extracting from or mining Indigenous worlds for insights and academic prestige. The ‘ontological turn’, however, leads us to question the empirical status of the ontologies circulating through academic discussions. What happens when Indigenous people disappoint, in their embrace of environmentally destructive industries such as mining, for example? We argue that in cases where ‘they’ are not as different as ‘we’ might hope them to be, scholars should be concerned to foreground the potential role of colonial history and processes of domination in the production and reduction of ontological difference. Second, we call for critical assessment of the political, epistemological, and social effects of both academic and societal evaluations of difference. We conclude by urging for a scholarship that does not pick and choose between agreeable and less agreeable forms of cultural difference.
- Indigenous people