Spectacles of Absence: The Imagined Worlds of Copper Scarcity

Authors: David Kneas*, University of South Carolina
Topics: Resources, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: Speculation, Resource Exploration
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 1:30 PM / 2:45 PM
Room: Virtual 36
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


One of the most widespread and influential forecasts within the global mining industry stems around the future of copper. Industry analysts are currently telling a recurring prognosis that the global demand for copper will continue to grow over the coming decades (due to Chinese demand and green technologies like hybrid cars and electrification), even as the large-scale mines that currently provide much of the world’s copper reach the end of their productive lives. In this paper, I examine the production and circulation of distinct types of imagery associated with these projections. I focus, in particular, on graphs that emphasize the spectacle of future deficits, probing what holds them together and the emotions and affects that such visualizations engender. I likewise consider the various ways these projections circulate in the realm of mineral exploration and the assorted storylines that becomes associated with them. In moving between these registers, we see a collapsing of temporalities in which the spectacle of future deficits is called upon to do particular types of resource speculation.

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