Lindsay Bell joining the Department of Anthropology

May 03, 2018

Lindsay Bell joining the Department of Anthropology

Story by Rob Rombouts

Lindsay Bell is joining the Department of Anthropology as Assistant Professor. Bell completed her PhD at the University of Toronto, and comes from a role as Assistant Professor at State University of New York, Oswego.

Bell researches the ethics and culture of mining industries and corporate-community relationships around resource development projects.

Focusing on resource extraction in the circumpolar world, Bell has looked at diamond mining companies operating in northern Canada, and Canadian companies operating in other first-world countries.

In 2017, Bell completed a fellowship through the Finnish Academy of Sciences. She researched how mining companies have tried to take approaches to ethical mining, developed in Canada, and implement them in other Arctic regions.

“My research has tracked the slippage between nationality and ethics,” said Bell, “the way Canadian-ness becomes a stand-in for ethics. Notions of ethics and transparency need to be investigated rather than assumed.”

“Canada is a country that exports a lot of ideas about ethics,” said Bell. “Policy makers often assume policy is just policy; but it requires a cultural translation of ideas. Regulations that land in a new setting need to adapt to local conceptions of the environment and different cultures of work”.

“Mining often gets proposed as a way to solve economic inequality. I am interested in how this proposal shapes ideas about those on the margins and how this model of development narrows the possibilities for making a future,” said Bell.

Bell said that most corporate ethics programs are fairly short-sighted, with plans focusing on individual communities and individual mining projects. People living in a region with a dense history of extraction, however, have a longer term vision.

“Even if one mine doesn’t deliver on promises, most people have a sense that there is a way to improve the process, or they have their own unique ways of carving out meaningful lives,” said Bell.

While much of Bell’s research has focused on mining projects in the circumpolar world, her future research will focus on transparency in the mineral sector more broadly, looking at the culture of mining-connected corporate and NGO structures, around the world. This work is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation and the Wenner Gren Foundation for Anthropology.

“I’m taking my existing work and going up a level to gain an understanding of the transnational politics and governance of mining and the mineral sector,” said Bell.

Bell is excited to come to Western to join a “big department committed to interesting interdisciplinary collaboration and high calibre teaching.”

“The Anthropology department is so vibrant,” said Bell. “There are so many talented people who are committed to staying in conversation with each other.”