The project focuses on the cultural and social consequences of large scale (diamond) mining on people in the area of Kimberley, South Africa. It concentrates on two interrelated issues, namely (1) conflicts between local populations and mining companies, and (2) the impact of mining upon the formation of local (and national) identity.
Mining and conflicting interests
Large scale mining, not least because of its impact upon local (and national) economies, is closely related to political processes on both local and national levels. Large scale mining also has an impact on processes of (local) social stratification. The project intents to investigate the conflicts that may evolve between the local population (farmers, indigenous people), workers, businessmen, and political authorities (cf. Ballard & Banks 2003).
Mining and local identity
Large scale mining also has a cultural dimension through its impact on the formation of local identities (Li 2000, Imbun 1995). Diamond mining is, for example, a significant part of contemporary South African identity and the Kimberley area has, due to a number of historical processes, become crucial for constructing a “boerish” identity. The surroundings of Kimberley are also the bearer of the cultural heritage of the Bushman People (especially the !Xun and Khwe San) as it is rich in rock paintings. This cultural heritage of the Bushman people is now threatened as the mining companies intent to expand the exploitation of diamond ore deposits.
The Kimberley mines and beyond
The description and analysis of processes of identity formation in contemporary South Africa may cast some light on the construction of a “local” identity in the Falun mining area in historical times, and may also serve as a useful tool to understand historical processes of social conflict in mining areas in general.
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