Global Earth Matters - Bauxite and Aluminum - Research Center for Material Culture
1 July 2016

Global Earth Matters - Bauxite and Aluminum

Seminar | 30 June - 1 July | RCMC

Global Earth Matters: Mining, Materiality and the Museum is a series of seminars that seek to re-center scholarly interest in the materiality of objects, opening onto broader questions of labor and making, skills and craftsmanship, on issues surrounding the (exploitative) economies from which these objects emerge.

Mining, Materiality and the Museum

Bringing together artists, academics and curators into interdisciplinary conversations, we want to push the conversation about museums objects beyond questions of aesthetic quality or (cultural) use, to critically explore the relationship between the materials from which these objects are made and the social world within which they are created or function. By retraining our gaze beyond a focus on cultural groups that museum objects are to represent towards a thinking of the materiality of the objects themselves within a broader economy of innovation and making, labor and imperial enterprise, we want to foreground the relationship between the materiality of mining practices and the diversity of cultural understanding about the earth.

Bauxite and Aluminium

The first seminar in the series focuses on the history and materiality of bauxite. Bauxite, and more specifically aluminum, has changed the world of architecture and design, of travel, and even of warfare. How, we will ask, do the extraction of bauxite and the industrial applications of aluminum contribute to ‘worldmaking’ and ‘worldbreaking’ processes? In what ways has aluminum contributed to our imagining of particular places as centers of modernity and others as peripheries of extraction? How can we combine perspectives on the political economy of commodity chains with cultural approaches linking sites of production and consumption? How does the use of aluminum for electricity, improved mobility, and architecture epitomize cosmopolitan life and accelerated speed in global connections? How can we analyze zones of extraction as sites of intense social struggles and environmental damage? And what stories can we tell by foregrounding the materiality of aluminum to comprehend the life of our museum objects?

Global Earth Matters: Mining, Materiality and the Museum - Bauxite and Aluminum invites a diverse group of makers and thinkers with an expertise in materiality to explore these and other questions around the global interactions of bauxite.

Confirmed speakers

  • Lennart Booij (Curator Applied Arts & Design, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam)
  • Bonnie Campbell (Political Science, Université du Québec à Montréal)
  • Femke Herregraven (independent artist & designer)
  • Hans Otto Frøland  (Historical Studies, Norwegian University of Science and Technology)
  • Michiel van Kempen, (Dutch-Caribbean Literature Studies, University of Amsterdam)
  • Annette Schmidt (Curator Africa, National Museum of World Cultures)
  • Mimi Sheller (Cultural Studies, Drexel University College, Philadelphia)
  • Espen Storli (Historical Studies, Norwegian University of Science and Technology)

The seminar will be moderated by Dr. Sabine Luning and dr. Wayne Modest


Global Earth Matters is a collaboration between the Institute of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology, Leiden University and the Research Center for Material Culture and is supported by Leiden Global Interactions.