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Brokers of crisis: the everyday uncertainty of Eastern Congo's mineral négociants*

  • Christoph Vogel (a1) and Josaphat Musamba (a2)

Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo's (DRC) artisanal mining sector is often linked to the violent conflicts that have beset Central Africa for over two decades. While many analyses emphasise its ‘criminal’ and ‘illegal’ nature, less attention has been paid to the ambiguity of this economy, most prominently incarnated by the intermediate mineral traders called négociants. Focusing on their entrepreneurship, networks and everyday activities, this essay offers a more nuanced understanding of local mineral trade in the context of a ‘crisis economy’ framed by competing governable orders. It investigates the uncertainty along eastern DRC's mineral supply chains, that are undergoing major regulatory changes to curb the trade of so-called ‘conflict minerals’. Drawing from extensive fieldwork, this essay demonstrates how this uncertainty shapes the négociants’ role as brokers of socio-economic life in the provinces of North and South Kivu.

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We wish to thank the JMAS editors and two anonymous referees. Judith Verweijen, Timothy Raeymaekers, Benedikt Korf and Koen Vlassenroot helped us brokering the uncertainty of previous drafts. Lievin Mbarushimana, Chrispin Mvano and Lebon Mulimbi made for an amazing team as we talked to numerous négociants, whose consent and collaboration are the foundation of this essay. Our fieldwork was generously supported by the Swiss National Science Fund (SNF) grant S-75141-03-01. Any remaining errors are ours alone.

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