Theorizing a post-extractivist future for India

  • How is extractivism in India leading to increased social resistance movements and ecological distribution conflicts?
  • What is the scope and severity of social violence of the extractive sector in India?
  • What could a post-extractive framework based on post-growth thinking look like?

These are some of the key questions of this research project, 'Theorizing a post-extractivist future for India: Evidence from a meta-analysis of social resistance movements against environmental injustices at resource peripheries in India', conducted by LEaDing fellow Dr Arpita Bisht.

Over the last decades, India has seen a rise in ecological distribution conflicts (EDCs) and environmental and social justice movements in defence of land, ecosystems and human rights. India has the highest number of documented EDCs across the world, many which are a result of extractivism of mining and industrial ores. India also ranked fourth highest (globally) in terms of the number of land and environmental defenders killed in 2016.

Largely as a result of resource extraction, resource flows in India’s economy have almost quadrupled between 1961-2009. Yet these extractive activities have been concentrated in regions with dense forests and a high percentage of socioeconomically marginalized communities. This includes the Adivasi people whose culture and way of living is deeply embedded within the local ecosystem.

examining how mineral extractivism impacts access to cultural and sacred spaces to Adivasi people

In this project, running from September 2019 to August 2021, Dr Arpita Bisht will delve into the rise of EDCs in India, often manifested in the form of social resistance movements against extractivism.

Her research will elaborate on the monetarily immeasurable value of ecosystems to the Adivasi. It will examine how mineral extractivism impacts access to cultural and sacred spaces to Adivasi people and how this influences the generation of social resistance movements or EDCs.

The research will furthermore explore the social violence of the extractive sector in India, looking at frequency, actors involved and areas where such violence is occurring.

Finally, the research will also look into post-extractive framework based on post-growth thinking.


The research has 4 fieldwork areas, each corresponding to a different mineral that has contributed to a high frequency of conflicts.

  • Jharkhand, Saranda Forests (iron ore)
  • Jerella, East Godavari, Andhra Pradesh (bauxite)
  • Kerala (Beach sand mining, rare earth metals)
  • Himachal Pradesh, Chakki riverbed (River sand)

Why is this research relevant?

The EDCs and environmental and social justice movements in India are part of a global trend of rising conflicts over natural resources. Worldwide resource extraction has expanded rapidly over the past century, amongst others through the expansion of extraction sites (the 'commodity frontiers'). Yet particularly in non-industrialized economies, these expansions have repeatedly led to ecological damages and displacement of communities already living in the area.

The expected and desired growth of the global economy imply further pressures on the natural resource base and ecosystems worldwide. As frontiers expand into new territories, more conflicts are likely to emerge. While this research thus focuses on the Indian context, its findings have much broader implications, including for example for EDCs in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa as well as South-East Asia. The findings can also feed into the broader ongoing discussions on transitioning to post-extractive and post-growth societies.


The research is being conducted by Dr Arpita Bisht (postdoc researcher) under the guidance of Professor Murat Arsel.


  • Saes, B. M., Bisht, A. 2020 (upcoming) 'Iron ore peripheries in the extractive boom: a comparison between mining conflicts in India and Brazil' Journal of Extractive industries and Society
  • Bisht, A., 2020 (upcoming) 'Between extractivism and sacredness: The struggle for environmental inheritances by the Adivasi communities of India' In (eds.) Valtonen, A., Rantala, O., Farah, P. D. 2020: Reimagining Ethics and Politics of Space for the Anthropocene, Edward Elgan Publishing
  • Sand mining in Vasai Creek, Mumbai, 18th February, 2020 EJAtlas (Environmental Justice Atlas).
  • ‘Herverdelen in plaats van obsessief groeien. Lokale ontwikkeling in plaats van megasteden’.  Interview in MO*(Mondiaal Nieuws) in Dutch

  1. Conceptualizing sand extractivism: a new frontier of global resource scarcity
  2. Sand Futures: Post-growth alternatives towards socially and ecologically just aggregate resource consumption and distribution in the Global South
  3. Social resistance by adivasis against mineral extractivism in India: Causes, counteractions, and consequences
  4. Environmental defenders in India: Conflict, violence and social instability at expanding resource frontiers in India
  5. Operationalizing post-extractivism in India: Conceptualizing an alternative framework for resource extraction at resource peripheries


  • This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No 707404.

    The opinions expressed reflect only the author’s view. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information of the information it contains.

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Arpita Bisht - portrait
Email address

For more information about this project, please contact Dr Arpita Bisht.

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