'But I'm not a Protester': Negotiating Knowledge and Ignorance in Responding to Unconventional Gas Developments in Queensland, Australia
The rapid development of Australia’s gas reserves has led to significant challenges for regional and rural communities. Especially the unprecedented unconventional gas boom in the state of Queensland caused a variety of community responses from embracing economic benefits to active civil disobedience. Following ethnographic fieldwork with affected communities, this paper specifically focuses on cases of critically responding and resisting members who refuse being classified as protesters. These interlocutors rather attempt to be recognized actors within the decision-making process, which leads to continuing negotiations over valid knowledge claims. Expanding on the anthropological repertoire of knowledge and ignorance as processes of social positioning, I unpack these empirical findings by critically utilizing Stehr’s concept of ‘knowledgeability’ (bundles of enabling competencies) and Kolodny’s ‘cryptonormativism’ (disguised normative claims) in regard to the scientization and (de) politicization of CSG-related knowledge debates. I explain the appeal of scientific, value-free claims and some actors’ refusal of political motives through the lens of processes of epistemic purification and pollution. This nuanced discussion prompts me to conclude by cautioning against oversimplified conceptualization of knowledge and a reductionist scientism that may (re) create epistemic and social inequalities.
About the Presenter
Martin Espig is a Ph.D. candidate in environmental anthropology in the School of Social Science at the University of Queensland, Australia. His current research focuses on knowledge-related debates regarding the impacts and risks of unconventional coal seam gas developments in regional and rural agricultural regions.