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No Ethnographic Playground: Mining Projects and Anthropological Politics. A Review Essay

  • Marina Welker (a1)


“Mining is no ethnographic playground,” Chris Ballard and Glenn Banks warned in their 2003 review of the anthropology of mining. The deep conflicts that characterize the industry find echoes in “a parallel war of sorts …waged within the discipline about the nature and scope of appropriate forms of engagement” (p. 289). This review essay examines how authors of recent ethnographic studies of large-scale, capital-intensive mining projects in Papua New Guinea, South Africa, and the United States have politically positioned themselves as researchers, and the insights into mining companies that derive from these situated perspectives.


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Ballard, Chris, and Banks, Glenn. 2003. Resource Wars: The Anthropology of Mining. Annual Review of Anthropology 32: 287313.
Fortun, Kim. 2001. Advocacy after Bhopal: Environmentalism, Disaster, New Global Orders. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Furnivall, J. S. 1991. The Fashioning of Leviathan: The Beginnings of British Rule in Burma. Canberra: Department of Anthropology, Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University.
Jacka, Jerry K. 2015. Alchemy in the Rain Forest: Politics, Ecology, and Resilience in a New Guinea Mining Area. Durham: Duke University Press.
Kirsch, Stuart. 2006. Reverse Anthropology: Indigenous Analysis of Social and Environmental Relations in New Guinea. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
LeCain, Timothy J. 2009. Mass Destruction: The Men and Giant Mines that Wired America and Scarred the Planet. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.
Li, Fabiana. 2015. Unearthing Conflict: Corporate Mining, Activism, and Expertise in Peru. Durham: Duke University Press.
Rogers, Douglas. 2012. The Materiality of the Corporation: Oil, Gas, and Corporate Social Technologies in the Remaking of a Russian Region. American Ethnologist 39, 2: 284–96.
Rogers, Douglas. 2015. Oil and Anthropology. Annual Review of Anthropology 44: 365–80.
Tsing, Anna Lowenhaupt. 2005. Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Welker, Marina. 2014. Enacting the Corporation: An American Mining Firm in Post-Authoritarian Indonesia. Berkeley: University of California Press.

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No Ethnographic Playground: Mining Projects and Anthropological Politics. A Review Essay

  • Marina Welker (a1)


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