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Research The Groningen Research Institute for the Study of Culture (ICOG) Research

Project showcases


Environmental Histories of Resource Extraction in Africa: Understanding Cultural and Political Responses to Environmental Transformation

Dr. Iva PeŇ°a / Centre for International Relations Research

Resource extraction industries on the African continent have experienced an immense boom during the 20th century, leaving drastic environmental changes in their wake. Intensive gas and oil exploration, and gold and copper mining have dramatically changed the landscape, severely polluting the soil, water and air in many African countries. Environmental degradation has elicited numerous responses, from those who simply accepted that pollution was a fact of life, to those moving onto active resistance to oppose it. The AFREXTRACT comparative study is an in-depth exploration of how communities in Nigeria, Zambia and South Africa have responded to environmental transformations, induced by resource extractive industries, in their cultural expressions and through popular politics.

Although the resource extractive industries have caused pollution in many areas, local people’s responses to such contaminations have differed significantly. Whereas the people in the Zambian Copperbelt have glorified copper as ‘red gold’ while seemingly accepting the realities of living near polluting mines, the people of the Nigerian Niger Delta have violently protested about the decades of oil spills, referring to the petroleum industry as being actively complicit in ‘ecocide’. Similar protests have recently emerged in South Africa, where people’s environmental protests had long been curbed by the Apartheid regime. People in these areas have expressed their responses to environmental change both culturally, through music and literature, and politically, through active resistance. The aim of AFREXTRACT is to highlight the lived experiences of three African communities and their relationships with their natural environment.

Project website: AFREXTRACT

Documenting Complexity

Prof. Dr Tamara Witschge / Centre for Media and Journalism Studies

Documentary Complexity traces the intersection of documentary and activism. Employing a multi-methodological and practice-led approach, we work towards a bottom-up understanding of how documentary makers use new technologies and intersectional strategies for their activist and artistic aims.

This collaborative research project brings together researchers, artists, documentary filmmakers, curators, activists, and journalists – and is committed to creating better relationships between academia, cultural institutions, and practitioners. Together, we contribute to educational programmes, co-organise screenings and workshops, work towards open-access resources, and practice collective thinking and making.

Project website: Documenting Complexity

New Political Geographies of Large-Scale Economic Infrastructures"

Dr Jana Hönke / Centre for International Relations Research

Traditional conceptions of state and territoriality no longer capture newly emerging political topographies. As economic activity so does politics take place in and through multiple sites and connections. Approaching the political geographies that emerge around transnational economic activity through conceptual lenses of absence and failure has proven limiting and misleading. This project suggests, instead, that it is the very areas associated with absence and failure that reveal newly emerging configurations of political ordering.

Sites and technologies of transnational economic activity provide particularly insightful starting points to explore such political geographies. Examining global infrastructures of production, transport and distribution, and practices of securing such activities and their spatial manifestations, brings to light emerging spatialities of power and politics that are crucial for understanding the future of world politics.

Soundtoll Registers Online

Dr Jan Willem Veluwenkamp & Dr. Anjana Singh / Centre for Historical Studies

In close co-operation with Tresoar, the Frisian Historical and Literary Centre, Leeuwarden, an electronic database for the complete Sound Toll Registers is being realised. This dataset is a valuable source for economic and social historians. The toll entries can be used to trace changes in consumption patterns and economic development, for instance, but it could also shed light on the composition and structure of sailer communities.


‘Cultural Narratives of Crisis & Renewal’

Prof. Dr Pablo Valdivia (president steering committee) / Centre for Arts in Society

This European Commission H2020 Marie Curie RISE Excellent Science project addresses the scarcity of scientific research on cultural narratives elaborated around conjunctures of crisis and renewal with a particular focus on the period marked by what has been termed the ‘neoliberal turn’: from its violent implementation in Latin America in the 1970s, to its questioning at our current historical conjuncture, in the continuing aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. This is a collaboration project between several international universities.


Last modified:23 January 2023 1.52 p.m.