Follow the minerals, not the criminals: A transnational ethnography for green criminology

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The pervasive transnationalism of environmental crime poses a particular challenge to green criminology. As Spapens et al (2016) have noted, more research is needed that moves beyond studies of local environmental crimes and charts the wider aspects of the phenomenon, clarifying how such crimes involve and interfere with social and ecological milieus beyond their apparent origin. This chapter provides a research design that escapes localism and traces the transnational dynamics of a specific circuit of environmental crime. Specifically, we develop an ethnographic approach that charts three key facets of mineral exploitation, namely the illegal mining, smuggling and dumping of cobalt, lithium and rare earth 1 related to the productions of energy storage devices. The chapter illuminates their illegal extraction, through to their ensuing smuggling and their inclusion into legal goods and eventual dumping along a north-south corridor from Sub-Saharan Africa to Northern Europe. In so doing, we propose an approach that ‘follows the mineral, rather than the criminal’ (cf. Kopytoff 1986). Instead of working in the thick of localised wrongdoing, “following the minerals” affords a transnational criminological approach that investigates the grey-zone between the legal and the illegal, bringing together an examination of the different socio-political spaces and the juridical categories involved in such environmental crime. The focus thus connects the study of transnational crime with environmental crime and thereby clarifies ‘the eco-global’ (White 2009) way in which crime critically intersects and impacts environmental change.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGreen Criminology and the Law
EditorsJames Gacek, Richard Jochelson
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Publication statusIn preparation - 2021

ID: 252553512