Beyond the boom:

Genealogies of corridor urbanism in the making of the Lithium Triangle, Argentina and Chile

Alberto Valz Gris
In Geoforum 2023, Advanced online publication
Valz Gris, A. (2023). Beyond the boom: Genealogies of corridor urbanism in the making of the Lithium Triangle, Argentina and Chile. Geoforum, 147, Advance online publication.
DOI: 10.1016/j.geoforum.2023.103913

Since 2015, the Atacama region has emerged as the Lithium Triangle, a global hotspot for lithium extraction marked by the establishment of new mines and the expansion of existing ones. Adding to recent studies that document the adverse localized impacts of this booming economy, in this article I grapple with the layered geographies of logistics infrastructure that have historically enabled and materially sustained the process of resource extraction, probing the co-production of extraction and logistics. I propose to explore this intersection through the notion of corridor urbanism as proposed by Silver (2021) and chart its underexplored aspects in a context of extended urbanization and resource extraction. Through a mobile ethnography along a segment of the lithium trade’s logistical network across the Atacama, I engage with the layered genealogies of three infrastructural elements that have been crucial in the development of this extractive landscape: the upgraded cross-border road and customhouse at Paso de Jama, the recently repaired Huaytiquina railway and the expanded port of Mejillones. Reflecting on these genealogies and their associated dynamics of smoothing, repair and securing, I locate some defining features of corridor urbanism, its extractive dimension, layered temporalities and selective character whereby socioecological wellbeing is unevenly distributed. In conclusion, I argue how a closer engagement with the situated genealogies of corridor urbanism can contribute to a sharper understanding of present and near-future extractive landscapes, especially in the context of a global expansion of resource frontiers and wider technological restructuring.