Productive Potentialities Within—and Beyond—Lithiumphilia

Productive Potentialities Within—and Beyond—Lithiumphilia

07. 04. 2022

DEA Guest Speaker Series by Professor Mark Goodale (University of Lausanne), 20.4.2022, 16:00 CET, at the Institute of Ethnology.

Institute of Ethnology in cooperation with Czech Association for Social Anthropology (CASA) invites you to the DEA Guest Speaker Series by Professor Mark Goodale (University of Lausanne) on “Productive Potentialities Within—and Beyond—Lithiumphilia” 20.4.2022, 16:00 CET, at the Institute of Ethnology.

Mark Goodale

Abstract: This talk is structured by two parts. It begins by reflecting critically and more generally about the ways in which the study of energy, climate change, and mobility must resist a tendency to conceive of research questions, frame research projects, and develop scholarly interventions that mirror the underlying urgencies that define energy and climate processes. As an illustration of this tendency, the talk describes a particular underlying urgency described as "lithiumphilia," an obsession with lithium as both resource and panacea given that lithium forms the productive core of a set of interconnected technologies that include "battery grade" lithium carbonate, cathodic material, lithium-ion batteries, and electric vehicles (EVs).

The talk's second part describes what happens when lithiumphilia is resisted as an ethnographic imperative. Based on ongoing research conducted largely in Bolivia, which contains the world's largest known lithium reserves, the paper examines the ways in which the country's lithium industrialization project must be understood differently when viewed beyond the global allure of lithium extraction and its promise of a so-called green energy transition. Approached ethnographically beyond the epistemological tunnel vision of lithiumphilia, the actually existing productive relations around lithium in Bolivia look quite different. Instead of a centralizing project that properly reflects its wider value, the lithium industrialization process in Bolivia takes the shape of simply one among several "productive potentialities," that is, micro political economies that are unfolding according to distinct—and incompatible—productive and ideological logics.


Wednesday, 20. 4. 2022, 16:00 CET

IN PERSON: Seminar room of the Institute of Ethnology, Czech Academy of Sciences

Na Florenci 3, Prague

5th floor


Invitation to download


Photo: Mark Goodale’s archive