Social Licence to Operate The Role of an Idea in the Colonial Logics of Extractivism

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Amber Murrey
Nicholas Jackson
Matías Volonterio


In this intervention article, we cultivate an anti-colonial critique of the ideational genealogy and conceptual materialisation of the social licence to operate (SLO) in the extractive industries in order to open a conversation about the racialised and colonial logics underlying its enactment and discursive practices. SLO functions to restrict the emergence of imaginary political potentials within communities impacted by extractive projects. We focus on the role of academics and social science researchers within and beyond the space of the university in engineering, shaping, and promoting dominant SLO frameworks, and endorsing the power and mythology of SLO. We do so in conversation with decolonial orientations that simultaneously analyse the colonial logics within corporate practice and galvanise epistemic justice beyond colonial and epistemic extractivism. The university, as a site for the refinement and promotion of hegemonic concepts like SLO, is an important space for post-extractive struggles.

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Articles (refereed)
Author Biographies

Amber Murrey, School of Geography & the Environment, Oxford, UK

  • Associate Professor in Human Geography

Nicholas Jackson, Ronin Institute

Research Scholar