The ethics of entanglement: thinking Australian extractivism in transcultural terms
Carsten Wergin (Ruprecht-Karls-University Heidelberg)
Paper short abstract:
The paper presents intimate and interpersonal dimensions of the conflict over the construction of an LNG facility at Walmadany / James Price Point near the iconic tourist town of Broome (NW Australia) as glimpses of a transcultural Australian society founded in what I call 'ethics of entanglement'.
Paper long abstract:
This presentation draws on original ethnographic material from longterm fieldwork on the conflict over the construction of a $45 Billion AUD Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) facility at Walmadany / James Price Point, 50km north of the iconic tourist town of Broome on the Indian Ocean coast. My aim will be to show how intimate and interpersonal dimensions motivated by potential extractivism and its wider social and ecological effects can be read as glimpses of a transcultural Australian society founded in what I term ethics of entanglement. Arguably the largest environmental protest action in Australian history was staged in opposition to the proposal of an LNG precinct put forward by Woodside Ltd. and the West Australian government. Central to it were arguments for its positive benefits for the Indigenous population that would significantly outplay possible environmental harm. Indigenous regimes of value added a very different layer to this conflict. Aboriginal narratives span deep into Bugarrigarra (The Dreaming), the term used by West Kimberley people to describe their ancestral law and culture. Foundational to Bugarrigarra is the recognition of 'living country' as the source of both physical and spiritual well-being for human and other-than-human actors (liyan). In my presentation, I highlight collaborations that formed (in) this moral landscape, the ways friendships were sought, maintained or rejected between actors (including myself) and how these affected broader dynamics of potential impact and change.