|Heightened popular awareness around mining and indigenous issues (at least partly represented in the spectacular success of the film Avatar) presents an opportunity for anthropology to redouble its efforts at demonstrating the political, economic and cultural complexity of social negotiations related to large scale mining ventures.
Anthropologists’ traditional subjects for ethnographies of mining are the mine workers and the socially and environmentally impacted (usually indigenous) communities that live in the vicinity of mine sites. Indigenous and local responses to mining are seldom uniform, but have been often represented as either greenie antidevelopment or greedy pro-development. State regulatory bodies have been the faceless shadows extracting taxes and providing legislative support for developers or placing bureaucratic limits on development to mitigate social or environmental impacts. Mining companies and their representatives also come out of mining ethnographies looking a little one dimensional, since few anthropologists have had the access, the clearance, or perhaps the interest in representing this element of mining projects and associated negotiations with the State and social groups. Mining is traditionally a frontier industry; one which operates at or beyond the geographical and legislative bounds of the State. Significant differences in the anthropology of mining are derived at least in part by the extent to which particular States regulate for social and environmental responsibility in mining. Such differences can be seen in ethnographic studies reporting on the consequences of development and social impact that occur in the absence of adequate community consultation versus ethnographies of complex engagements between negotiating actors. Papers in this panel will examine the range of impacts of mining in cases where “social responsibility” has largely not been enforced by states; to those cases where negotiation between local communities and mining company representatives are at such a level that actors in apparently opposing roles can be said to have meaningful (if not productive) social relationships.
Multinational mining businesses have been celebrated for their apparent ascription to, or denigrated for their lack of adherence to the morality of corporate social responsibility. But what are the dynamics of CSR on (and under) the ground? How have communities and employees experienced social responsibility programs associated with mining? We are particularly interested in papers that address the various dimensions of mining interests: the state, the corporation and community. Furthermore, we are interested in papers that critically examine what such a tripartite approach to mining ethnographies leaves out.
This panel is looking for papers that represent nuanced approaches to mining ethnography and depict the complex local and circulating global strategies of those engaged in the business of mining and its effects. Our emphasis on ‘comparison' is not for the purposes of grand theory elaboration; rather, we are seeking insights into the global phenomenon of social and political circumstances and impacts of mineral exploration and exploitation for both particularity and comparison.