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Accepted Paper:

Lithium's Off-Sites in Northern Chile: The Dystopian Backyard of the Decarbonization of Transport  
Marina Weinberg (Universiteit van Amsterdam - Universidad Católica del Norte)

Paper short abstract:

I explore transformations that are forged along lithium carbonate production processes in Northern Chile, concentrating on the 'off-sites', revealing the endurance of infrastructures largely supported by oil and coal therefore creating tensions with 'clean energies' narratives.

Paper long abstract:

In this paper, I ethnographically explore the various social and material transformations that are forged along lithium carbonate production processes in Northern Chile. More particularly, I am concerned with those transformations taking place outside the Salar de Atacama, beyond the place where brines are pumped out. Rather than focusing on the well-studied footprint that this extractive water-intense activity leaves on the saltpan evaporitic ecosystems themselves, I concentrate on the so-called lithium extraction 'off-sites', namely, those less examined 'affected sites' existing beyond the saltpan nucleus and its environmental surroundings. I show how ethnographic consideration of different off-sites reveal the endurance of infrastructures largely supported by oil and coal, thus creating an unambiguous contrast with 'clean energies' narratives linked to lithium production. By foregrounding not only the dependence on fossil fuel transport (diesel-trucks for transporting brines and plants workers, planes and buses for lithium's commuters, and ships for commercialization) but also the chemical toxicity stemming from lithium carbonate conversion plants, I demonstrate how the exaltation of a univocal green planetary future project is fading particular vital sites off, hence inadvertently enlarging the precarization of life and structural inequalities within Sci-Fi dystopian scenarios.

Panel P022a
Uncommon Explorations between Green Technologies, Climate Hopes, and the Anthropological Imagination I
  Session 1 Wednesday 27 July, 2022, -