Keynote: Iain Boal

Drawn from Nature: Extraction, Commodity, and Commons
7.30pm, Thursday 17 May
Methodist Church, Chapel Street, Penzance
Free event, open to all

‘Extraction’ is close to the heart of capitalist modernity, and Cornwall is a microcosm of that history. The discovery of a mountain of silver in Virreinato del Perú was the prelude to a story, rehearsed across the planet, of conquest and enclosure, mass migration and language extinction, boom and bust, accumulated wealth and hard-scrabble survival. Cornwall has a coastal landscape of great beauty, bountiful fishing grounds, and a crustal geology bearing the blessing and curse of precious minerals – all features it shares with northern California, along with a rich history of representation.

A social historian of science, technics and the commons who has lived on San Francisco Bay for twenty-five years, Iain Boal will compare Cornwall and the northern California littoral as zones of extraction. In particular he will trace the legacies – environmental and social – of mining and fishing considered as industries tied into a globalised market, by drawing out the paradoxes of depletion and sustainability, of tourism and the heritage industry, of regional autonomy and centralised subsidy, of lived reality and the mythos of the far West. The aim is to prime the conversation by setting some key terms resonating, to move beyond the binaries typically on offer – local or global, periphery or centre, state or market, green or toxic – and then, acknowledging that extraction in some form is necessary to humanity’s metabolism, to offer a framework for discussion of what would be involved in the picturing and building of a world – and a Cornwall (and California) within it – where all might flourish and find an ample life in common.

The Methodist Church on Chapel Street in Penzance is a Grade 2* listed building. Erected in 1814 and enlarged in 1863, it retains its original box pews and Georgian plasterwork. The church can accommodate 700 people and all are welcome.