Wollar is a small village on the western edge of the Great Dividing Range on the east coast of Australia. Within this small and seemingly insignificant village, a battle, emblematic of what Eriksen (2016) classifies as the central double bind of the Anthropocene, has unfolded over the past ten years. This battle can be described as an ideological contest embedded in dystopic and utopic notions of the future as they relate to questions of energy security and economic progress.
In this paper, I will explore this contest through the case study of Wollar. The village, surrounded by three large open-cut mines, has over the past ten years changed from being a laid-back rural community to a ghost town. The lives of the people of Wollar stand in stark contrast the mining industry and Government’s main narratives of mining, which emphasise visions of prosperity and progress. Whilst the industrial development and infrastructure that enable the extraction—and, not least, the extractive activities in their own right—are emphasised as investments in the future, the people of Wollar see it as nothing but a lost future. As the mine has moved in and the monstrous open-cut pits have evolved, Wollar as a place has become victimised and made redundant; as the logistics for a ‘prosperous future’ marked by production and consumption have been put in place, a localised process of destruction has intensified.
The paper will explore how the hegemonic vision of the future as dependent on coal have manifested at the coal frontier. Drawing on existing scholarship from anthropology and human geography on the politics of time, place and place-based distress, I will examine how this heterogeneous image of the future has led to experiences of disruption, disempowerment and dissonance. Through reflection on the ethnographic material, I will introduce the concept of eritalgia as a construct that roots notions of power and time within experiences of place, emplacement and displacement. Expanding the existing duad of solastalgia (Albrecht 2005) and nostalgia, I seek to illustrate how place-based distress is not only triggered by change to landscapes and the physical environment but, conversely, intersects with sociality, ontology and temporality. (Speaker’s abstract)
Source and further information: MPI, Link (11 June 2018)