Fellowship: Rocca Pre-dissertation Research
Fellowship Year(s): 2016
Project/Theme Title: Mining for Territory: Pressures, Practices, and Policy in Madagascar’s Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining Sector
Abstracts: Madagascar—Earth’s oldest and fourth-largest island—harbors some of the most unique and endangered plant and animal species on the planet. Its human population, meanwhile, is one of the world’s poorest. Over the past 15 years, the Malagasy government has collaborated with transnational environmental NGOs, international financial institutions, and private corporations to both dramatically expand the country’s network of protected areas and encourage the uptake and development of concessions in its minerals industry. At the same time, the occurrence of artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) of gold and gemstones has markedly increased across the island, now representing the country’s second-most significant livelihood activity after smallholder agriculture. These three phenomena—the expansion of protected areas, growth of large-scale mining, and increase in artisanal and small-scale mining—involve a plethora of actors with varied interests engaged in the pursuit of drastically different objectives, but they share a common characteristic in that each involves the augmentation of claims to land and resources. It is here where the (perhaps) contradictory imperatives of environmental protection, national development, and poverty alleviation converge; where the occurrence of and potential for greater conflict over territory resides; and where my project begins. In the initial stages of conducting my dissertation project, I thus pose the overarching questions: How have the extension of protected areas and expansion of mining concessions affected the practices and livelihoods of artisanal and small-scale miners in Madagascar? How do the practices by which miners navigate changes in land designations in order to preserve access to resources complicate the dominant narrative regarding their (lack of) agency vis-à-vis government, corporate, and NGO actors, as well as the transnational, structural forces of globalization, conservation, and development? What implications might the recognition of this agency have in terms of policy approaches to the ASM sector, particularly in relation to recent formalization efforts?