Seed Money Project Spotlight

Every year ASI awards seed money to promising interdisciplinary projects. This year, five research proposals have been chosen to receive funding. ASI would like to highlight each project and the team behind it.

07/01/2021 | 12:28 PM

Gold in Crisis: New Environmental Threats and Global Crime in South America

A project introduction from the research team: 

South America is a region of prolonged social and ecological crisis. Environmental degradation and the increased movement of people, money, and goods vividly reveal the porosity of borders across the region, and highlight the contentious on-the-ground workings of legal systems. Meanwhile, local populations and ecologies are victimised by the uncontrolled extraction of minerals and the criminal networks feeding off such extraction. This project takes gold mining as a productive lens to examine these social dynamics for the cases of Colombia and Venezuela. Access to gold-rich territories is highly contested, mining causes pollution and deforestation, and from the moment of extraction, gold is a substance that has direct exchange value in global business networks that operate between formal and informal institutions. 

As such, the project explores the question: How do local dynamics of gold mining in Colombia and Venezuela drive contemporary global forms of social and environmental crisis? To highlight the relationship between local land uses and global forms of crisis and crime, we rely on a hybrid methodological approach that involves ethnographic fieldwork, qualitative criminological research, and spatial analysis and geospatial modelling of deforestation. By taking a multi-disciplinary approach, our project empirically connects local land uses, resource economies and alternative governance regimes to new forms of global exploitation of people and the environment.

Research Team

  • Dr Jesse Jonkman, Postdoctoral Researcher Department of Social & Cultural Anthropology, Faculty of Social Sciences.
  • Dr Žiga Malek, Assistant Professor Department of Environmental Geography, IVM, Faculty of Science.
  • Dr Clarissa Meerts, Assistant Professor Criminology, Faculty of Law.
  • Dr Eva van Roekel, Assistant Professor Department of Social & Cultural Anthropology, Faculty of Social Sciences.