At the double edge of the state: formalisation producing “hyperprecarity” on the goldmining frontier in Burkina Faso

Authors: Muriel Côte*, Political Geography, Uni of Zürich
Topics: Political Geography
Keywords: Frontier, goldmining, precarity, Burkina Faso
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Napoleon C1, Sheraton 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Frontier dynamics operate through conjuring a violent imagination of territories being “empty but full” (Korf and Raeymaekers 2013, Peluso and Lund 2011, Watts 2012, Eilenberg 2012, 2014, Korf, Hagmann and Emmenegger 2015, Tsing 2003, Côte and Korf 2017). This paper argues that resource formalisation policies are key to such conjuring. In many places, resource rushes take place at the edge of the state, in the twilight between legal and illegal (Lund 2006), and the formalisation of resource rights is heralded as a way to organise resource competition. Yet formalisation is also double edged – it often implies specific forms of exclusion (Hall et al 2011, Wily 2012, Kelly and Peluso 2015). Taking the lens of the goldmining rush that followed the 2008 financial crisis, and the case of artisanal small-scale (ASM) gold mining in Burkina Faso, I will propose that ASM formalisation policies have not been a response to, but part and parcel of the gold mining frontier. To understand this, I draw on what Hammami (2016) called “hyperprecarity” – a process paraphrased by Joronen (2017) as ‘a condition where the only option for the precarious is to seek protection from the state that targets them with violence’. Naming hyperprecarity helps me to bring into focus the ambiguous role that “resource formalisation” policies play in resource frontier dynamics, and to account for the complex political work that is necessary for these rushes to, literally, take place.

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