Free working paper on mining, CSR and politics out now!

The Effective States and Inclusive Development Research Centre have just published a working paper by yours truly on ‘Corporate social responsibility and political settlements in the mining sector in Ghana, Zambia and Peru’. It’s really a first cut at some of the findings from my work in 2014 which I’m currently writing up into some papers and a book. The abstract reads thusly:

This paper explores and compares the political effects of corporate social responsibility in the mining sector in Zambia, Ghana and Peru. The paper adopts a political settlements approach to answer the question: How do the CSR practices of mining companies affect local and national political settlements? After setting out the main tenets of the political settlements approach, this is articulated with literature on the politics of natural resource extraction and CSR. The paper then sets the wider context of the international drivers of increased attention to CSR in the extractive sector and before exploring the impact of the CSR practices of mining companies on the political settlement in Ghana, Peru and Zambia at the national and local levels. The final sections offer a comparative discussion of what the findings mean for understanding CSR’s role in inclusive development and natural resource governance. The paper argues that recent increased CSR expenditure does not necessarily translate into development for those living near mining companies, particularly in contexts of exclusionary political settlements, of which all case studies exhibited characteristics. There are a great many institutional and contextual limitations placed on the ability of CSR to deliver development for affected communities. Across the case studies, the opportunities CSR programmes afford tended to aimed at those with the greatest capacity to disrupt operations rather than those with the greatest need. In concluding, I argue that, despite some obvious limitations, the political settlements approach can generate new insights through its focus on the politics of development, and, in particular, the politics of stability.

Available here – Go check it out! All feedback welcome.

Listen to the talk I gave in Edinburgh this week

I recorded the talk I gave to the Centre of African Studies at the University of Edinburgh this week and you can listen to it here:

I really enjoyed the opportunity to talk to such an interesting crowd and got some great questions (which aren’t included). I have high hopes we can get some future research collaborations with folks up there.

Listen to my talk on politics, CSR and development

Following the success of my last podcast I’ve decided to record my talks and stick them on this blog. So, here is the audio for my talk ‘Talking about politics: corporate social responsibility and development in Ghana, Perú and Zambia’ at Mining and Communities Solutions 2016, University of British Columbia, 5-8 June 2016.

Despite this being my first talk at a mining industry conference, it went down really well and provoked quite a bit of discussion. Listening again I hear it mainly as a masterclass in saying ‘erm’ a lot (I was rather nervous) but I did get my main points across quite well. I had little reason to be nervous it seems as my message – that we need to talk about CSR as a political intervention into host countries and communities – was broadly well received. This conference was a gathering of people who really do what to improve the impacts and benefits of mining for local communities and therefore very encouraging. I’ll be posting about my ‘take homes’ in the coming days.

Do let me know what you think.

I have a podcast!

A first! A few weeks back I gave the departmental seminar in my department as I’m coming to the end of my current research project (though the writing will continue for some time) and they recorded it and put it on Soundcloud. So, should you wish to hear my recent thoughts on mining and CSR, do have a listen. Should you wish to hear them again, you can download the podcast for your repeated listening pleasure. It has received some favourable mentions on the Twitter already. From people I have no idea who are, which is nice.



The irony is that seen as this was my first recorded talk to be distributed online it is also one of my least well prepared (It was recorded very shortly after my recent job interview). Which, I think, means that I come across much more black and white and critical than I would have intended. Ah well. Here’s hoping I have more time to get my message straight before it’s recorded for posterity next time. This has inspired me to record the talks I’ll be giving over the summer and upload them.

My (2010) PhD thesis is now available online

Me, in a more innocent time

Me, in a more innocent time

When I submitted it, there was the potential that some journals would treat copies online as having already published and

therefore not accept my proposed articles.  I thus set it to have a 5 year embargo. This passed a few weeks ago but I still can’t find it in the University of Manchester repository so, taking matters into my own hands, I’ve added it to my publications page.

You can find it here.
My thesis quite different from my current work and looks at the historical rise of copper mining in colonial Zambia. I look at the advances within the mining industry and colonial state that were required to turn a bit of remote African bush into a global centre of commodity production.

The proper abstract is:

This thesis examines the co-production of social inequality and an extractive space on the Zambian Copperbelt in the early twentieth-century. The rapidity and scale of the development of world-leading copper mines on the Copperbelt was described at the time as “one of the greatest mineral developments ever experienced” and took many observers by surprise. This thesis examines the origins of this boom. It argues that the success of mining on the Copperbelt is not only a result of the decisions and actions of miners and colonial officials in the 1930s to 1960s, but largely a result of those taken in the decades prior to this ‘heyday’. The keys to understanding this rapid transformation lie in the political and economic interventions and innovations which colonialism brought to (what was then called) Northern Rhodesia in the decades preceding the advent of large-scale mining. In this earlier period, dozens of mining and other commercial enterprises failed, but in their ruins the seeds of commercial success were sown. In this period too, many of the structures which generated and perpetuated the inequality and poverty which characterise contemporary Zambia were created. The success of extractive capitalism in Northern Rhodesia rested on changing regimes of access to and control over resources. Interventions in socio-ecological relations were a focus of British colonial rule in Northern Rhodesia and created the political and economic ‘infrastructure’ which enabled mining to take off rapidly when rich ore was subsequently discovered. This thesis explores how the Northern Rhodesian Copperbelt was produced as a space for natural resource extraction in the colonial period through attention to the military, political and economic practices which produced regimes of access to, and control over, resources. These interventions were key to instantiating new capitalist relations and asserting British rule in colonial Zambia. To examine the conditions in which the Copperbelt boom was produced, this thesis draws on existing work on this transition. In drawing on this work, this research offers a political ecological critique of the development of Zambian Copperbelt. The thesis highlights the complexities of the struggle to produce both extractive capitalism and stable colonial rule and how the production of an extractive space on the Copperbelt had long-term consequences for the territory’s development.

New publication

An article based on my PhD work has just been published online by the Annals of the Association of American Geographers. My PhD work is quite different from my current research. This article looks at why there was so little violent resistance to British impositions in colonial Zambia by drawing on the ideas of Michel Foucault and analyses inspired by his work. The official abstract reads thusly:

British colonial rule in Africa in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries straddled a contradiction between promoting radical social transformation and maintaining political order. This article explores the relationship between changing techniques of rule and the stability of rule; in particular, the proletarianization and dispossession of African populations and production of an extractive economy in colonial Zambia. The 1920s saw the transition from charter rule by the British South Africa Company to the Colonial Office and the end of widespread rural unrest. Using archival and secondary sources, two key interventions marked a new mode of governing and spatial reorganization of power are examined: indirect rule through Native authorities and the constitution of Native reserves. These interventions sought to rework the political landscape and align relations between men and things in ways that furthered the aims of both extractive capitalism and colonial rule. The consequences and limitations of these new forms of intervention are examined by bringing together Marxist ideas of dispossession and the contradictions of colonial rule and Foucault’s work on governmental power. In the final sections, a wider set of relations and processes beyond the state that worked to produce economic forms of subjectivity are explored, before arguing that the hallmark of techniques of rule that became widespread in British colonial sub-Saharan Africa is that they stabilized dispossession and worked to resolve central contradictions of colonial rule

If this sounds like your cup of tea, or you’d like to read that translated into Chinese and Spanish, you can download the article here or, if you don’t have access to this journal, you can find a pre-press version of the text in my university’s online repository here.