WSJ4 began by asking contributors to respond to the question “what was a mining boom?” We hoped to construct “an archaeology of the mining boom as loose historical period”.
The question was initially framed with reference to local conditions. The term “mining boom” has become ubiquitous, used frequently by economic and media commentators in Australia over the past decade to refer to the huge expansions in resource extraction, fuelled, in part, by demand for minerals to be used in the ongoing industrialisation of China. In this context “the boom” has taken on mythopoetical proportions and has been used to explain a raft of phenomena. With the boom now said to be approaching its end, it seemed an apt time to ask contributors to consider the term in its widest sense, aiming to engage with the historical, economic, material, cultural, ecological and political, without privileging any of these particular frames.
WSJ4 also points to the ongoing renarrativisation between past and present, necessitated by the condition of globalised modernity. To look at “mining booms” as a temporal category gestures away from the strictly linear narratives generated by the modern nationalist state project and toward non-linear and transnational narrative possibilities. Accordingly, issues as diverse as industrialisation, labour, migration, economic integration, cultural difference and colonial expansion might all be read together as interrelated and ongoing conditions.
Local mining activity has been located in and around the traditional lands of Australia’s Indigenous population and many mining companies have funded cultural and community projects in these areas, in what is often an effort to manage corporate public relations. While WSJ4 does not address the vast scope of Indigenous issues in relation to mining, it is nonetheless a topic that is inseparable from all aspects of “the boom” covered in WSJ4.
This issue also seeks to explore the capacities inherent to an online publication such as WSJ, and, how it might respond to the challenge of the “global-local” context. Several recent exhibitions worldwide have been of particular influence for this issue.1 We hope WSJ4 offers a regional contribution to a wider global discourse.
— Gavan Blau and Sarinah Masukor