When Boom Goes Bust: Ruins, Crisis and Security in Megaengineering Diamond Mining in Angola

  • Filipe Calvão


Amidst talk of a global market disaster, this article explores the social, legal, and cultural relevance of diamond mega-mining sites against a broader landscape of crisis. Specifically, it situates the economic hardships at local diamond mines within the historical debates involving political, economic and violent conflicts over Angolan sovereignty. Historically, diamond mines launched an era of corporate-planned residential settlements and domestic arrangements that are combined with strict, and at times patronizing, control of its workforce at the frontier of colonial sovereignty. In this laboratory of corporate-colonial rule, techniques of mining surveillance and the built environment were assembled and deployed in order to preserve commodity security and the organization and discipline of contracted pools of migrant and local populations. This chapter questions the contemporary resonances of this industrial-mining complex by drawing on ongoing ethnographic research at several mines in Angola. It suggests that while representing an institutional cut with the recent trajectory of Angolan diamonds, and a technological breakthrough with earlier twentieth-century mining projects, the mining compound of the new generation of mega-kimberlitic mines remains attentive to illicit circuits of commodity extraction and circulation. This situation exists because it regulates social interactions between miners and local populations. The productive value of “security”, the practice of law, and corporate techniques of control in diamond mines are considered as cultural constructs of the new rituals of corporate-state ideology. Going beyond the observation that “neo-liberal” mining projects are also models for quasi-sovereign apparatus of corporate governance. I argue instead that they act as a regime of space traversed by bodies, commodities, and immaterial forces, where notions and practices of social leverage and regulation are dialogically reinscribed betwixt and between corporate techniques of control and local idioms of social control.


Corporate Governance Mining Project Kimberlite Pipe Total Institution Mining Town 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of ChicagoChicagoUSA

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