Extraction redefines our understanding of urbanism in the 21st century. If everything we build comes from the ground, then extraction is the process and practice that reshapes our assumptions about urban economies. From gold to gravel, copper to coltan, iron to uranium, geological resources support every single aspect of human life in the 21st century. In subway tunnels or on suburban streets, in electronic manufacturing or information media, on stock exchanges or in commodity markets, the geological materiality of con-temporary urbanism is inescapable. Where do these materials come from? Where do they go? Who processes them? How are they moved?
Often perceived as remote, the sites and systems of resource mining not only expose the scales and states of industrial extraction but they reconfigure the limits of urban economies and extents of patterns of consumption. From land rights on the surface to mineral rights below the surface, every dimension of urban life is mediated by resource extraction.
Canada is at the heart of this massive international re-source infrastructure. It is the most active mining nation in the world, with more than half of the globe’s mining companies head-quartered in Canada and listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Over half of the world’s mines are operated, serviced, financed or engineered by Canadians. This raises issues of profound social, logistical, environmental and political relevance that require critical inquiry.
Why does extraction dominate? How did this empire emerge? How far does it extend? Who does it impact? Who gains, who loses? What alternatives exist? These are the pressing questions and public debates that face Canada in the next urban century, as it becomes a global resource giant, and planetary staple supplier. Either in the assembly of consumer goods like smartphones or the construction of concrete highways, Canadian life is mediated through mineral extraction: it is our urban, political and cultural ore.
Moving into the 21st century, the process of extraction is a project that requires a different method of imagination, new ways of engagement and new forms of representation. If it is to do so responsibly, sustainably, and intelligently, it will have to grapple with the advantages as much as the social challenges of transnational operations, the environmental realities of resource extraction as much as the economic myths of mining cultures. Canada will have to re-examine and re-imagine its imperial role throughout the world for the foreseeable future and the legacy of the next generation.
Profiling both the historic and contemporary culture of extraction from a political-ecological lens, the course features a selection of readings and presentations from influential scholars across a range of fields including geography, art, literature, architecture, engineer-ing, science, environment, industry, business and culture. Topics of discussion will be interwoven with profiles of contemporary leaders in business, politics and culture. In addition to this original content, the course will profile historic, unpublished and rare materials from a variety of Canadian archives to re-examine and re-collect the sources, evolutions and transfers of imperial resource roles and colonial logics—from outpost to global storehouse, from empire to empire—that Canada has both occupied and submitted to in the past five hundred years. Finally, the course will result in the production of mapping and multimedia content related to the imaging and imagination of global resources and Canadian operations worldwide in the book and exhibition titled “EXTRACTION EMPIRE” that will be produced and published in collaboration with MIT Press in 2017 to coincide with Canada’s 150th year of Confederation.