Matthew Libassi

Matthew Libassi
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey | Rutgers

Doctor of Philosophy


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I am a researcher and educator focused on the social dimensions of natural resource use, conflict, and governance. I ground this work in a political-ecological approach, use ethnographic research methods, and draw primarily on cases from Southeast Asia. My current research examines extractive conflicts and small-scale gold mining in Indonesia.


Publications (8)
Behind farming, small-scale mining is one of the most important sources of rural livelihoods in the Global South. A significant body of research has detailed the interlinkages between these activities. More recently, scholars have used the tools of agrarian change to interpret small-scale mining livelihood dynamics. I build on this trend by introdu...
Resource extraction shapes the people who live and work in its midst. In Pongkor, Indonesia, these transformations revolve around long-running tensions between large- and small-scale gold miners. The region is home to a state-owned industrial mine as well as thousands of unlicensed, small-scale miners. These actors have competed over the same gold...
Worldwide, subsurface resources are typically the domain of the state. Their cataloguing and government-permitted extraction comprise key elements of state territorialization of the subterranean. However, like processes of territorialization aboveground, state control of the underground is always incomplete and subject to competing uses of space an...
Since its advent at the end of the nineteenth century, cyanide processing facilitated the intensification and global expansion of industrial gold mining. Today, there are important indications that artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) is on the verge of a similar cyanide revolution: while ASGM is typically associated with mercury-based proc...
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1. Land-use change and political–economic shifts have shaped hunting patterns globally, even as traditional hunting practices endure across many local socio-cultural contexts. The widespread expansion of oil palm cultivation, and associated urbanization, alters land-use patterns, ecological processes, economic relationships, access to land and soci...
Small-scale mining involves extremely heterogeneous labor arrangements. While previous research has highlighted differences between mining contexts, relatively few scholars have focused on the diverse forms of labor that constitute individual mining localities. Fewer still have analyzed the consequences that emerge from these varied arrangements. I...
With some 900 small-scale mining sites throughout the country, Indonesia’s informal gold sector is large and growing. This chapter explores key influences and trends in this sector with a focus on the iterative development of gold mining crystallizations. First, it presents a national-level overview of the historical expansion and diversity of info...


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