Order and the Underground: Shaded Governance in the Goldfields of Madagascar

Colloquium | April 17 | 12:30-2 p.m. | 223 Moses Hall

 Brian Klein, PhD Candidate, University of California, Berkeley

 Center for African Studies

Over the past several decades—and, especially, following a price spike after the 2009 financial crisis—artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) has dramatically expanded across the Global South, with more than 20 million people now producing 20-30 percent of global output. Despite the sector’s economic significance, popular and conservationist accounts have settled on a narrative casting ASGM as ecologically destructive, dangerous, and morally degrading. Moreover, mining sites are depicted as ungoverned and ungovernable spaces of chaos and anarchy. Policy responses have accordingly been limited to militarized interventions, export bans, and formalization schemes. Using insight gleaned from the case of Madagascar, UC Berkeley doctoral candidate Brian Klein argues that these approaches “fail” because they rest on a fundamental misunderstanding of (dis)order in the diggings. Drawing on 14 months of ethnographic fieldwork in mining areas and administrative centers, Klein contends that ASGM sites are spaces where resource access and extraction are regulated—often quite thoroughly, through highly complex governance arrangements. However, public authority in these contexts is often fragmented, with a diverse ecosystem of institutions and individuals consistently competing for and (re)negotiating the power to rule. The entanglement of different actors and institutions involved in governing ASGM sites calls into question the practical applicability and analytical utility of categorizations like legal/illegal, formal/informal, state/non-state. Instead of analyzing historically sedimented processes and institutions through these lenses, our priority, Klein concludes, should be to understand what local actors view as legitimate, to interrogate existing processes to reveal exploitative dynamics, and to identify opportunities for miners’ empowerment and emancipation from oppressive arrangements.

Brian Ikaika Klein is a doctoral candidate in UC Berkeley’s Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management. His research examines the political economy of extractive resource frontiers across the Global South, with a current focus on governance of artisanal and small-scale gold mining in Madagascar. He has been supported by the Center for African Studies’ Rocca Pre-Dissertation and Dissertation Research Fellowships, as well as the Berkeley Fellowship for Graduate Study and NSFGRFP. Prior to entering graduate school, Klein worked in Washington, DC at organizations including the World Bank, Union of Concerned Scientists, and Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. He served as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer in Madagascar from 2010-2012, and earned a B.A. in political science and international peace studies from the University of Notre Dame in 2008. He originally hails from Kailua, Hawai‘i—and tries to get back as frequently as possible.

 asc@berkeley.edu, 510-642-8338