Current Institutional Affiliation
Associate Professor, Anthropology and Sociology of Development, The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2008
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, University of Chicago
The Rough and the Cut: Extracting the State and Trading in Value in a Postcolonial Mining Complex

Based in Angola's mining complex, this ethnographic project examines how diamonds, in the material and symbolic process of extraction, exchange, and expenditure, conceal and deploy contradictory notions of crisis and wealth. It considers the social location of this commodity, through practices of circulation, in constituting Angola's postcolonial present as a refraction of a violent past and the anticipated hope in the future. This research project takes on the opportunity to -conduct ethnographic work on the conditions of mineral extraction in Angola to raise the social instantiations of a post-war diamond-economy in its inner dynamics of sovereignty and privatization, illegality and order. What are the sediments of the State's exercise of rule and its interaction with local orders of social organization? And what forms of symbolic and material appropriation do diamonds call for, and how does it paradoxically consolidate and threaten the project of statehood in Angola? As symbolic material in its own right, diamonds may help understand the contemporary conditions of State formation, law and the status of postcolonial subjects. By participant observation of diamond trading, I will analyze the relations and forms of political exercise that cross and move beyond the borders of enclave territories of mining extraction. Through interviews, life-stories, and an ethnographic observation of spaces of social interaction, I hope to detail the terms by which a local currency is extracted and locally translated as a global commodity, and the practices and discursive formations whereby these objects are reinscribed as icons of wealth in cosmologies ·Of value -creation and expenditure. By means of careful archival research, I will examine the historical continuities with colonial mining systems.