Nuclear Geopolitical Ecologies: A Hybrid Geography of Chinese Investment in Namibia’s Uranium Sector

Authors: Meredith DeBoom*, University of Colorado at Boulder
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Development, Political Geography
Keywords: Africa, China, Development, Extraction, Geopolitics, Mining, Postcolonialism
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 12:40 PM / 2:20 PM
Room: Bonaparte, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


China’s rising influence has geopolitical, developmental, and ecological implications. This paper uses Namibia as a case study to analyze the multi-scalar implications of Chinese investments in uranium mining. Namibia is expected to become the world’s second-largest uranium exporter when the Husab uranium mine, China’s largest to-date investment in Africa, reaches full production in late 2018. Drawing on a theoretical framework of hybridity and data from multi-method fieldwork, I explain how Chinese investments have prevented the collapse of Namibia’s environmentally-precarious uranium industry while benefiting the ruling parties of both China and Namibia. This “South-South solidarity” among governing elites, I argue, is in turn reinforcing both states as development trustees for their respective populations. The uneven distribution of the benefits and costs of this mining-led development strategy are as intertwined with the materiality of uranium extraction as they are with nuclear geopolitics. The analysis demonstrates the usefulness of hybridity as a theoretical lens for analyzing the politics of extractive development in a time of geopolitical and environmental transition.

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