Diamonds and development: A critical analysis of stereotypes about mineworkers in Sierra Leone
AbstractIn the last decade, the Sierra Leone’s diamond mines have been the focus of an intense debate among analysts and experts of the development. Two main interrelated issues have been at stake in this debate: first, to understand the economic and political reasons that had supported the civil war from 1991 to 2002 and, second, to understand how to convert a potential “conflict commodity” in a resource for peace and prosperity. In this paper, I intend to highlight some recurring stereotypes of this debate. In particular, I will focus on a constellation of representations that depict the artisanal miners either as workers poorly organized and prone to irrational economic behavior, or as workers subjected to forms of exploitation akin to slavery. Based on fieldwork conducted in the diamond mining areas of Sierra Leone (2007-2011), this article intends to analyze the main forms of working organization and distribution of earnings among the miners. By challenging some stereotypes characterizing the development discourse, my aim is to show the cultural complexity and the historical density of the practices through which the miners face the risks and uncertainties of their job.
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