Knowing as Social Scientists

The Gold Matters project seeks to generate excellent empirical research on the potential for transformations to sustainability in ASGM.

ASGM is associated with environmental degradation, poverty, inequality, and negative social, labor and health impacts, which generate critical barriers to sustainability. Government drives to formalize miners, coupled with technology-driven interventions, fail to stimulate socially inclusive, economically equitable, or environmentally sound transformation. Implicit in such interventions is a normative top-down approach to sustainability. The aim of this project is to consider whether and how societal transformation towards sustainable mining futures can take place in ASGM.

This includes critically reflecting on what sort of sustainability this might involve, for whom, and how. Using anthropology as an entry points for interdisciplinarity, emphasis is placed on understanding the dynamics structuring mining worlds as a basis for understanding the potential for sustainability practices to arise; within this attention is given to eliciting the diverse perspectives of mining actors. All too often it is assumed that sustainability changes need to be externally driven, and the design of interventions incorporates static models, fixed social categories and prescribed standards. An ambition of this project is to use qualitative social science as a basis to challenge existing assumptions about sustainability within the field of ASGM.

While placing emphasis on the value of trans-disciplinarity, social science plays a leading role in the academic orientation of this project. Social anthropology, in particular, provides an entry point to critically scrutinising existing ways of framing sustainability within gold mining worlds. All too often it is assumed that sustainability changes need to be externally driven, and the design of interventions incorporates static models, fixed social categories and prescribed standards. Our research critically reflects on what new futures can grow and are growing out of gold mining, for whom, and how.