“Niobium, a technology-critical element”
Andrés Salas (Canadá) Mesa B – Hibridaciones
Many materials are extracted in the indigenous territories of the Americas. This extraction has significant impacts on surrounding communities, living organisms and ecosystems. This study will take the example of niobium, an important mineral for many emerging technologies and physics research, to examine the complex contemporary interactions between science, emerging technologies, extractive industries and indigenous communities in Brazil and Quebec.
Niobium is unique in its place in the development of new technologies, from supercolliders to spacecraft, and in its role in contemporary technoscientific imaginaries about the future of human life. This study explores the cultural representations of this future that are stimulated by these technologies both within the scientific community and within indigenous communities at the extraction sites of: Araxá, in Minas Gerais, Brazil, and Niobec, located within the Mashteuiatsh reserve, Pekuakamiulnuatsh First Nation, Innu territories, in Saint-Honoré, Quebec.
The research has two objectives 1) critical examination of how discourses about the future involving niobium emerge from particular cultural, economic, and political histories and how these narratives legitimize certain extraction processes over others, and 2) to investigate and artistically produce alternative narratives that demonstrate the possibilities of building collaborative relationships between communities and scientists while rethinking knowledge production in relation to materials, place, ecosystems, and histories of settler colonialism.