Reunited at last! News from the Gold Matters workshop

After two years of virtual co-working, Gold Matters project members reunited for an end of project workshop held in mid-May at the Nordic African Institute in Uppsala, Sweden. At the workshop they explored their learning from the project and refined its key conclusions

Luciana Massaro

Finally, we met again! The Gold Matters members reunited after two years of virtual co-working on the occasion of the project workshop held in mid-May at the Nordic African Institute in Uppsala, Sweden. Emotions, ideas, and conversations flowed from the first moments and renewed our energy and enthusiasm for our project.

To break the ice, each member was asked to describe their journey in the project by bringing a meaningful object: a retort, two pieces of art, a pack of beans, a pen, two erasers, a book, a magnifying lens, a map, a notebook, a pair of shoes, a gold nugget, and a scale for weighing gold. Some objects represented the researcher’s personal involvement in the field, others spoke of miners’ everyday working life – these objects became useful tools for reflecting on transformations to sustainability.

In mid 2020, when the pandemic outbreak took a toll on our taken for granted lives, it became essential to switch to remote working in order to carry on with the research project. The pandemic exposed how vulnerable our jobs are, but also revealed our privileges with respect to many sectors with less flexible working conditions. We became used to seeing each other through a screen frame, often in the more intimate settings of our houses. It became normal to have funny interferences from family members and pets, and luckily, we never had any awkward moments.

As engaged anthropologists, we all started reflecting on meanings and consequences of such change on our personal and working life. It was striking how irreplaceable face-to-face interactions have proved to be. How nice it was to work together again in Uppsala, and also to share a laugh in person, especially if we consider that some members that joined the project more recently, like myself, never had a chance to meet the others face-to-face. It wasn’t only the impossibility of doing fieldwork for more than two years, but also the opportunity of visiting other fellow academics in their institutions, and exchanging knowledge and experiences.

The workshop, brilliantly organized by Eleanor Fisher and Cristiano Lanzano, went on smoothly, between working sessions, coffee breaks and nice dinners around Uppsala. All participants and personnel from the Nordic Africa Institute got involved in a live painting performance with artist Christophe Sawadogo, where we were invited to use the paint to write down and draw ideas and feelings over the importance of knowledge and education.

The workshop ended with a visit to the old Sala Silver mine, where we had the chance to physically descend into an example of Swedish industrial historical heritage that was also once a small-scale mine. What a perfect way to conclude our workshop!

Luciana Massaro is a post-doc from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (NL)

Gold Matters: Sustainability Transformations in Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Mining: A Multi-Actor and Trans-Regional Perspective is a transdisciplinary research project which aims to consider whether and how a transformative approach towards sustainability can arise in Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Mining (ASGM). For more information see


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