Spectacular Resources II: Geographies of Environmental Spectacles and Speculation

Type: Virtual Paper
Sponsor Groups: Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM (PDT)
Room: Virtual 36
Organizers: Andrea Marston, Jenny Goldstein, David Kneas
Chairs: Jenny Goldstein


The provisioning of natural resources has always entailed combinations of spectacle and speculation. Cultural spectacles help ascribe value and meaning to modes of resource extraction and the futures they portend (Coronil 1997; Apter 2005). Before natural resources can be explored, extracted, and commodified, their potential must be convincingly performed to attract initial investors. Drawing inspiration from Anna Tsing’s concept of “spectacular accumulation” (2000) and Guy Debord’s notion of “spectacle as a social relation among people, mediated by images” (1967/2005: 18), this paper session seeks to make explicit the connections between spectacle and speculation. We consider how spectacles become the medium through which speculators conjure resource potential, and how resource speculation contributes to the construction of spectacular resource futures (Watts 2004). Through its exploration of spectacular resource geographies, this panel calls attention to the productive (and sometimes conflicting) ways that the value of nature is “made visible” by financial analysts, corporations, prospectors, government institutions, and community members, among others.

These papers explore topics related (but not limited) to: the temporalities and spatialities of speculation in extractive, mineral, energy, forestry, land, water, or other material resources (Huber 2019); the role of visibility and visualization in the performance of resource value; the technologies and practices that conceal and/or reveal resources (Perkins and Dodge 2009); how resource spectacles circulate and reproduce; how big data, digital technologies, and data infrastructures are transforming resource spectacles; how ownership claims on resources are made through spectacles of belonging; and how speculation might be reimagined as an ongoing or recurrent part of resource-making.


Apter, Andrew. 2005. The Pan-african Nation: Oil and the Spectacle of Culture in Nigeria. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Coronil, Fernando. 1997. The Magical State: Nature, Money, and Modernity in Venezuela. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Debord, G. 1967/2005. The Society of the Spectacle. London: AKPress.
Huber, M. 2019. Resource geography II: What makes resources political? Progress in Human Geography 43(3), 553–564.
Perkins, C., & Dodge, M. 2009. Satellite imagery and the spectacle of secret spaces. Geoforum 40(4), 546–560.
Tsing, A. 2000. Inside the Economy of Appearances. Public Culture 12, 115–144.
Watts, M. J. 2004. Oil as money: the devil’s excrement and the spectacle of black gold. Reading Economic Geography (T. Barnes, J. Peck, E. Sheppard, A. Tickell, eds). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 205-219


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Andrea Marston*, Rutgers University, Spectacular Waste: Industrial Ruins and Nostalgic Speculation 15 3:05 PM
Presenter Jonathan Luedee*, University of Toronto, Experimental and Speculative Resource Geographies on Alaska’s North Slope 15 3:20 PM
Presenter Rebecca McMillan*, University of Toronto, Spectacular failures: Water infrastructure, hegemony, and Venezuela’s “magical state” 15 3:35 PM
Presenter Zeynep Oguz*, Northwestern University, The Speculative Underground: Oil Conspiracies, Irredentist Politics, and Geological Uncertainty in Turkey 15 3:50 PM
Discussant Jenny Goldstein Cornell University 15 4:05 PM

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