Eco-frictions of the Anthropocene

Eco-frictions of the Anthropocene is a research project that analyses geographical contexts that in the past were the scene of processes of intense economic and industrial exploitation, of a neo-colonial or post-colonial type, and that today open up to new forms of territorial development, inspired by the values of sustainability, conservation, heritage and energy saving. In particular, the project is interested in studying how significant sectors of “organized civil society”, institutions and the business world implement practices aimed at inscribing the territories under consideration in moral, economic and discursive regimes alternative to that of an immediate and destructive exploitation of the environment and natural resources. Among the directions in which such a trend is articulated, two seem to have a particular relevance: on the one hand, a patrimonializing tendency, in the case of conversion projects that leverage to specific “assets” (cultural and natural, material and immaterial) existing in the territories; on the other hand, a tendency towards sustainability, in the case of conversion projects that leverage on ecological renewal and the alternative use of natural resources (in the direction, for example, of “green” and/or “blue” economy).


The project aims at analysing these two – often interconnected – areas of “friction”: the first patrimonial, the second ecological. In both cases, whether the ecofrictions find expression in processes of retrospective manipulation of collective identities, or whether they revolve around alternative proposals for the management of resources and energy, the political dimension plays a decisive role, as does the ideological/cultural and linguistic-discursive dimension, which the project jointly analyses.

The analysis space of the project is designed by the intersection of several fields of research (Italians: Sicily, Sardinia; and Latin Americans: Mexico, Ecuador and Peru), united by the presence of strong conflicts related to environmental management, where energy exploitation and massive industrialization coexist with rhetoric of conservation and sustainability, where economic plundering and environmental degradation are associated with forms of capitalization of the territories and protection of their biodiversity.

Southern Italy islands and Latin America

Specifically, the project focuses on some locations in southern Italy islands (in Sicily, the three areas affected by petrochemical industrialization of Gela, Syracuse, Valle del Mela and the Eolian Island declared Unesco world heritage; in Sardinia, the coalfield of south-west Sardinia, the archaeological area of the upper Campidano and some mining sites in the province of Cagliari) and three emblematic areas of Latin America: southern Mexico (the area of oil extraction and refining and wind conversion of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec), Ecuador (the Yasuni National Park in the southern Amazon area, one of the richest in biodiversity but at the same time a reserve of oil reserves, and finally the Andean mining area near the worldwide reknown patrimonialized Cuzco). These are different points of observation (both in terms of territorial location and historical experience) of what is, however, the same global process of redefining industrial policies of energy extraction and “conversion”, not only productive but more extensively territorial.