Cfp for Special Issue: Refusing to Remain Unseen: Excavating Ecologies of Devastation, Plunderage, and Precarity


Call for Papers

Special Issue’s Editors

Bretton A. Varga
California State University, Chico
Erin C. Adams
Kennesaw State University

As essential as they are—or are perceived to be—minerals and metals are too-often unseen/unappreciated/unnoticed, thus burying essential inquiries and occluding opportunities for researchers, educators, and students to engage with relationships existing between people, products, and the environment (Adams & Varga, 2022). In particular, we are primarily interested in how these relationships are underwritten by extractionary logics and irreparable spatial woundings that have and continue to cultivate devastation, plunderage, and thus, ecological precarity. Extractionary mentalities have physically reshaped the world as well as our (e.g., all more-than-humans) sensibilities. That is, “our newly shaped and ruined landscapes become the new reality” (Gan et al., 2017, G6), which we argue has become one of the hallmarks of existence during the paradoxical geological epoch known as the Anthropocene. Unfortunately, we (e.g., humans) have little choice other than to accept the position that we have created; that “repairing what has been damaged or restoring what has been destroyed no longer defines the world making project” (Pratt, 2022, p. 11). As Kolbert (2021) proclaims, “the choice is not between what is and what was, but between what is and what will be” (p. 137).

Importantly, W.E.B. Du Bois (1986) points to another layer of this issue by laying bare the onto-epistemological implications of mining by stating “we know, of course, how much we depend on coal and iron and salt and metals…but how many people see and know about a coal mine?” (p. 120; cited in Jobson, 2021, p. 217). We recognize the attention rightly directed towards fossil fuels and their extraction. However, in this special issue we wish to highlight that metals, too, are mined and the extraction of rare earth elements are slated to only increase as demand rises for (allegedly) “clean” fuels.

Everywhere we look mining, metals, and extraction (MMEs) seem to be lingering—an insidious orientation just waiting to be engaged with and/or found. For example, various elements of MMEs have worked their way into our vocabulary, (re)shaping our language and comprising our metaphors (e.g., “golden,” “platinum,” or “minefield”) as well as our research practices (e.g., “data mining”). Shalaby (2017) gets at the danger of viewing children and schools as sites of extraction by comparing children in schools to “canaries in a coal mine” alerting adults to the toxicities within institutions to which children are especially vulnerable. Adjacently, research— especially traditional qualitative research—presumes to probe, extract, and excavate participants’ minds in search of valuable/viable “raw” materials. Even our media cannot be divorced from the medium; metal is the medium. There is a geology of media; “Our relations with the earth are mediated through technologies and techniques of visualization, sonification, calculation, mapping, prediction, simulation, and so forth” (Parikka, 2015, p. 12). Quite literally, we see with metal, as “it is the earth that provides for media and enables it: the minerals, materials of(f) the ground, the affordances of its geophysical reality that make technical media happen” (Parikka, 2015, p. 13). Metals like coltan, extracted from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, are used in the iPhones and contribute to a whole host of metals that are used in the computer screens and batteries. Programs like Disney’s The Mandalorian highlight these politics of extraction through literal planetary destruction and the relentless quest for the precious and fictitious metal beskar (Varga & Adams, 2022). 

Moreover, we see an alertness to metals and the people behind the screens as another way to practice techno-skepticism (i.e., reference to the non-neutrality of technology and the social structures that become produced by/through technological advancements) (Krutka et al., 2020). Put simply, MMEs have (re)shaped our conception of acceptability and possibility by normalizing act(ion)s of delineation and (violent) extraction. Extending this arc to the past, within the context of the United States, capitalism, Indigenous dispossession, settler colonialism, and slavery are all modeled on extractionary and exploitative principles underpinned by human attempts to excavate minerals and metals at all costs (Deloria, 1988; Donald, 2019; Du Bois, 1935; Dunbar-Ortiz, 2014; Haiven, 2017; Park, 2022; Smith, et al., 2018). In other words, we see with and through metals while at the same time often failing to see, that is, recognize and acknowledge, those very same metals, metaphors, and harmful practices couched in (historical) devastation and plunderage.

In this spirit, we propose a special issue in the Journal of Ecohumanism that engages with the manifold ways MMEs impact teaching, learning, and research about the more-than-human world (Hayles, 1999). We acknowledge that such endeavors are not likely going to make a dent in extractionary act(ion)s but hope to work alongside Harney and Moten’s (2007) understanding of Fanon’s desire of not ending colonialism, but rather ending the perspective from which colonialism is accepted/normalized. Put simply, we see this special issue as a potential fulcrum that can challenge the logics beneath MMEs and undermine the imperative that MMEs are a prerequisite for social and material existence.

Importantly, we would encourage (potential) authors to reflect on their own relationship to metal before considering one of the following questions to the respond to:

● What happens when we (e.g., researchers) refuse to settle for what is merely seen? What else might we see above/beneath the Earth’s surface when we are prompted to look?
● From the perspective that extractionary logics maintain an always already presence across academic disciplines, how might we lean into assorted fields of study (e.g., Ecocritical, Material Ecocritical, Ecohorror, Art/Aesthetics, Visual Studies, Indigenous Studies, Petrocritiscm, Surveillance Studies) to further understand “entanglements of bodily and discursive relationships that constitute our life, both socially and biologically” (Iovino, 2018, p. 113)?
● How might research that engages with MMEs work towards unsettling dominant narratives about the human desire/need to change the landscape in order to continue producing metal/mineral-based objects? What new (counter) narratives—that extend beyond text—are needed to complicate how ecological encounters and intensities occurring are registered, understood, and (re)articulated?
● How might we (re)imagine the role of metals and extraction in various epochs (e.g., Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Plantationocene)?
● What would non-extractionary research and pedagogy/ies look/sound/feel like?
● How might we shift from learning about metal to learning with metal and metallurgic extractionary practices?


Adams, E. C., & Varga, B. A. (2022). Min(e)d your metals: Inquires into the environmental impact of extraction. The Geography Teacher. Advanced online publication.

Deloria, V. (1988). Custer died for your sins: An Indian manifesto. University of Oklahoma Press.

Du Bois, W. E. B. (1935). Black reconstruction: An essay toward a history of the part which black folk played in the attempt to reconstruct democracy in America, 1860-1880. Harcourt, Brace and Company.

Du Bois, W.E.B. (1986). 56: Forum of fact and opinion. In H. Aptheker (Ed.), Newspaper columns by W.E.B. Du Bois, Volume 1, 1883-1944. Kraus-Thompson.

Dunbar-Ortiz, R. (2014). An indigenous peoples’ history of the United States (Vol. 3). Beacon Press.

Gan, E., Tsing, A., Swanson, H., & Bubandt, N. (2017). Haunted landscapes of the anthropocene. In A. Tsing, H. Swanson, E. Gan, and N. Bubandt (Eds.), Arts of living on a damaged planet (pp. G1-G14). University of Minnesota Press.

Haiven, M. (2017). The uses of financial literacy: Financialization, the radical imagination, and the unpayable debts of settler colonialism. Cultural Politics, 13(3), 348–369.

Harney, S. & Moten, F. (2013). The undercommons: Fugitive planning & Black study. Minor Compositions.

Hayles, N. K. (1999). How we became posthuman virtual bodies in cybernetics, literature, and informatics. University of Chicago Press.

Iovino, S. (2018). Material ecocritiscim. In R. Braidotti and M.Hlavajova (Eds.), Posthuman glossary (pp. 112-115). Bloomsbury.

Jobson, R. C. (2020). Dead labor: On racial capital and fossil capital. In J. Leroy (Ed.), Histories of racial capitalism (pp. 215–230). Columbia University Press.

Kolbert, E. (2021). Under a white sky: The nature of the future. Crown.

Krutka, D. G., Heath, M. K., & Mason, L. E. (2020). Editorial: Technology won’t save us – A call for technoskepticism in social studies. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 20(1), 108–120.

Park, K.-S. (2022). The history wars and property law: Conquest and slavery as foundational to the field. Yale Law Review, 131(4), 1062-1153.

Parikka, J. (2015). A geology of media. University of Minnesota Press.

Pratt, M. L. (2022). Planetary longings. Duke University Press.

Shalaby, C. (2017). Troublemakers: Lessons in freedom from young children at school. The New Press.

Smith, L. T., Tuck, E., & Yang, K. W. (2018). Afterword: Meeting the land(s) where they are at:
A Conversation between Erin Marie Konsmo (Métis) and Karyn Recollet (Urban Cree). In L. Smith, E. Tuck, and K. Yang (Eds.), Indigenous and Decolonizing Studies in Education (pp. 238–251). Routledge.

Varga, B. A., & Adams, E. (2022). Metallurgic matter(ing)s: Mirrored Mandalorian metalscapes, mining(s), and mimesis. Journal of Posthumanism, 2(2), 167-179


About the Submissions
Potential contributors should (a) send an abstract of 250 words that describes the proposed focus and content of the paper and (b) a short bio. Please send the abstract and bio until 31st of July 2023 to both Editors’ e-mails. Full-length papers of approximately 5000-6000 words will be sent to both Editors’ e-mails until the 29th of February 2024 at the very latest. The language of submissions is only English. All submissions shall follow the latest guidelines of APA style referencing. More information about the style sheet is found here: [].

Short Bios

Bretton A. Varga, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of History-Social Science at California State University, Chico. His research works with(in) critical posthuman theories of race, materiality, and temporality to explore how visual methods and aesthetics can be used to unveil historically marginalized perspectives and layers (upon layers) of history that haunt the world around us. He has recently been the lead editor on a book with Teachers College Press titled, “Towards a Stranger and More Posthuman Studies.” Along with co-editing two other special issues (e.g., 20th anniversary of 9/11 for the Canadian Social Studies, death and memorialization for The Journal of Folklore and Education), he is an assistant editor for the Journal of Posthumanism and serves on the editorial board for the Journal of Curriculum and Pedagogy. Bretton’s academic work has appeared in various scholarly journals including Theory & Research in Social Education, Equity & Excellence in Education, The International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, Taboo: Journal of Culture and Education, Social Studies and The Young Learner, The Social Studies, Journal of Childhood Studies, and Journal Of Social Studies Research.

Contact Information:

Erin C. Adams is an associate professor of Elementary Social Studies Education at Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, GA. She recently edited a special issue on teaching economics for the Annals of Social Studies Education Research for Teachers (ASSERT). She has published twenty peer-reviewed articles and six book chapters. Erin’s articles have appeared in journals including Social Education, Citizenship, Social, and Economics Education, Journal of Childhood Studies, Social Studies Research and Practice, Professional Development in Education, Pedagogies, and Journal of Curriculum Studies. She is one of the writers and producers of the Three Minute Theory series Erin reviews for several journals including Theory and Research in Social Education, Teachers College Record, Social Studies and the Young Learner, and Teaching and Teacher Education.

Contact Information: