Northwestern Events Calendar


Shadow Geology: The Search for Subterranean Knowledge in West Africa - Robyn d'Avignon

When: Monday, October 30, 2017
4:30 PM - 6:00 PM  

Where: University Hall, Hagstrum 201, 1897 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Cost: FREE

Contact: Janet Hundrieser   847.491.3525

Group: Science in Human Culture Program - Klopsteg Lecture Series

Program of African Studies

Category: Lectures & Meetings


Since the late 1990s, rising gold prices and pro-market reforms to national mining codes have encouraged companies listed on the stock exchange of London, Johannesburg, Sydney, and Toronto to establish gold mines and exploration camps across West Africa. Corporate security forces and geological teams increasingly enter into violent conflicts with so-called ‘artisanal’ miners who extract gold with handpicks and dynamite. Conflicts between ‘artisanal’ and ‘industrial’ miners have been slotted into narratives of Africa’s neoliberal resource scramble and problems of governance. Through a focus on longer histories of empire and extraction, I reframe this ‘clash’ as one node in a far-reaching debate over the rights of agrarian households, the state, and private capital to the subsoil. Under colonial and post-colonial conditions, I argue, state and private prospectors have systematically appropriated the gold discoveries of African miners, while degrading African miners as primitive, criminal, and wasteful. This talk breaks from a historiography of extraction that focuses almost exclusively on the exploitation of labor and ecologies. I argue that the co-option of knowledge, and not only natural resources, is central to mining capitalism in Africa.

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