Mining Contestations and Claims to the Future in Senegal, The Gambia, and Guinea-Bissau

Authors: Ashley Fent*, Vassar College
Topics: Development, Africa
Keywords: mining, investment, Africa
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: 8201, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In the context of contested mining projects in coastal West Africa, this paper examines how corporations, state actors, and civil society actors produce spectacles of visibility that make claims to the future. This paper draws on participant observation, semi-structured interview data, and relevant news and secondary sources on four cases, in Varela (Guinea-Bissau), Kartong (The Gambia), Diogo (northern Senegal), and Niafarang (southern Senegal). Through these cases of mines that were temporarily or indefinitely stalled or that were eventually forced to cease operations, I explore the relationship—both etymological and material—between the spectacle, as a highly visible and visual performance, and speculation, as investing in projects or assets with a high risk of failure in the hope of making dramatic gains from future value. I argue that in these cases, the mining investments—most of which at first entered into local communities quietly and surreptitiously—were produced as spectacles through shifting assemblages of social actors that manifested in public demonstrations, attacks on fixed capital, state seizure of property, and attempts to continue the circulation of mining capital even amid stalled progress. These divergent spectacles were each a contested attempt to use visibility as a way of establishing claims to anticipated investments and future value.

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