Mining Capitalism: The Relationship between Corporations and their Critics

Mining Capitalism: The Relationship between Corporations and their Critics

Mining Capitalism: The Relationship between Corporations and their Critics Activism, Blog, Bougainville, Collage, Corporations, Design, History, Indonesia, ITS Image Factory, Pacific, PNG, Politics, Solomon Islands, The Struggle, West Papua
July 16, 2014
Mining Capitalism is a new book by Stuart Kirsch published by University of California Press with cover art by AK Rockefeller.

We are very excited to play a small part in this groundbreaking work towards understanding the effects of mining on indigenous communities and the environment in Melanesia and throughout the world.

Buy Mining Capitalism from UC Press


Corporations are among the most powerful institutions of our time, but they are also responsible for a wide range of harmful social and environmental impacts. Consequently, political movements and nongovernmental organizations increasingly contest the risks that corporations pose to people and nature. Mining Capitalism examines the strategies through which corporations manage their relationships with these critics and adversaries. By focusing on the conflict over the Ok Tedi copper and gold mine in Papua New Guinea, Stuart Kirsch tells the story of a slow-moving environmental disaster and the international network of indigenous peoples, advocacy groups, and lawyers that sought to protect local rivers and rain forests. Along the way, he analyzes how corporations promote their interests by manipulating science and invoking the discourses of sustainability and social responsibility. Based on two decades of anthropological research, this book is comparative in scope, showing readers how similar dynamics operate in other industries around the world.

Reviews of Mining Capitalism

“Mining Capitalism makes a much-needed contribution to understanding our contemporary historical moment”
– Kim Fortun, author of Advocacy after Bhopal

“It takes us from the devastation of a river to the courtrooms and commissions where activists and thieves reimagine its truth and consequences. This is a thrilling story, and everyone should read it”
– Anna Tsing, author of Friction

“A vivid account of the globalization of nature.”
— Arjun Appadurai, author of Modernity at Large

More about the author

Stuart Kirsch is an anthropologist who works in the Pacific and the Amazon on indigenous politics and environmental issues. He is professor of anthropology at the University of Michigan. He has carried out long-term ethnographic research with the Yonggom people living on both sides of the border between Papua New Guinea and West Papua (Indonesia). He has also collaborated with the Yonggom and their neighbors in their protests and legal proceedings against the environmental impact of the Ok Tedi copper and gold mine. His research interests include the corporation, social movements, discourse about ‘lost tribes’, mining, political ecology, political violence, property, and ritual and myth.


Kirsch is the author of Reverse Anthropology: Indigenous Analysis of Social and Environmental Relations in New Guinea (Stanford University Press 2006), which examines how the Yonggom draw on their cultural resources to interpret and respond to contemporary political challenges, including pollution from the mine, their participation in new forms of exchange, and the marginalization of West Papuan refugees living in Papua New Guinea. The book asks whether culture continues to matter in the face of such overwhelming power disparities.

His new book examines how corporations respond to critique. Mining Capitalism: The Relationship between Corporations and their Critics (University of California Press 2014) compares mining conflicts in Melanesia and other parts of the world. It analyzes the strategies corporations use to counter opposition from NGOs and indigenous groups. The book argues that understanding the dialectical relationship between corporations and their critics provides an antidote to the politics of resignation.

Professor Kirsch has consulted widely on indigenous rights and environmental issues, including compensation for damage caused by nuclear weapons testing in the Marshall Islands, conservation and development in the Lakekamu River Basin of Papua New Guinea, and mining and property rights in the Solomon Islands. He has also collaborated with Amerindian communities in Suriname on a project concerning the impacts of bauxite mining and as an expert witness in a case on indigenous land rights at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. These projects are the subject of his next book, The Politics of Engagement: Anthropology beyond the Text, which he began writing during a sabbatical in Winter 2014.

For more information and updates from Stuart Kirsch, check out his blog.

Mining Capitalism Cover

AK Rockefeller

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