Story behind the course: Meet Christopher, Sophia, and Janne!

December 9, 2021

Three good friends and close colleagues are behind the "Global Extractivisms and Alternatives" UniPID virtual studies course, which starts in January 2022. We had the opportunity to e-meet them and this is what they told us!

If the topic [extractivisms and alternatives] are familiar to you, it’s a must-do course to check your comprehension on the important and current topics, theories, thoughts, and actors…. If this is the first time you are hearing of such a research area, it’s a must-do introduction to such an important and eye-opening subject” (Janne)

Christopher Chagnon
Christopher Chagnon

Christopher, Sophia and Janne share a common curiosity about extractivism as an organizing concept and research approach. For those of you who don’t know, extractivism refers to practices that attend the overexploitation and appropriation of natural resources. Extractivism is characterized by taking too much, too destructively, and too quickly, with a disregard for sustainable reciprocal relations. Thus, the concept, mentality, and practices of extractivism stands in direct conflict with the concept of sustainability. Christopher, Sophia and Janne are members of the Global Extractivisms and Alternatives Initiative (EXALT) at the University of Helsinki and will work together to co-coordinate the UniPID virtual course, Extractivisms and Alternatives, which starts in January 2022.

Through the EXALT Initiative, all three have been actively building an international network of scholars and activists who are interested in extractivisms and alternatives.Christopher and Sophia also co-host the EXALT podcast, which is a monthly conversation with scholars, activists, and artists, who share their expertise and experience related to global extractivisms and alternatives.

Sophia Hagolani-Albov
Sophia Hagolani-Albov

You might be surprised to know that there are many examples of extractivism in our everyday lives, even in literature and pop culture! Christopher highlights how the novel Dune by Frank Herbert is an excellent example. Curious about how or why? Go and listen to the two-year anniversary bonus episode of the EXALT podcast, where Christopher and Sophia break down the 2021 version of the movie “Dune” from an extractivism perspective!

“Critical” and “think harder” are phrases that were mentioned a few times by the co-coordinators, which suggests they enjoy brain exercise inside and outside of research, and that they would like to pass this passion on to their students. Christopher highlights the use of extractivism as a “jumping-off point for learning more about specific issues, connecting issues, and approaching new alternatives” and Sophia believes that “developing an understanding about the extractivist logic and the role of alternatives helps one make more sense of modernity”. Janne also sees critical thinking as a source of inspiration, sharing that he gets encouraged by “other people’s ability to see things completely different, whether they are a scientist, a philosopher, a comedian, an author, or any kind of creator”. It seems that once you start seeing the world through this extractivist lens, it might be difficult to take the glasses off.

Janne Salovaara
Janne Salovaara

Of course, thinking about extractivisms and alternatives are not their only source of inspiration. In those rare instances when they have time outside of research, you can find Sophia hunting for mid-century Finnish landscape art, Christopher wondering about the creeping fear of seeing the world slip toward a sci-fi dystopia, and Janne juggling his time between home-improvement projects and growing his own food.

After this e-meet, we've found ourselves full of ideas, a list of new readings and new podcasts, and just very curious about this course. So, if you are a student, do not hesitate to register, the registration is still open until the 31st of December 2021.

Register to the UniPID virtual course here!

Follow the EXALT Initiative on Twitter @ExaltResearch

Listen to the EXALT podcast here!

Check out EXALT’s public lectures on YouTube and via the EXALT website.

For an introduction to the concept of extractivisms, check out chapter 17 in the new open access Helsinki University Press book, Situating Sustainability.

Photo credits: Gryffyn M, 2020 on Unsplash