Gold Mining and Unequal Exchange in Western Amazonia: A Theoretical Photo Journal

I have to forgo writing a proper update until I finish the current round of in-depth structured interviews with ecotourism workers, park guards, loggers, and miners. I look forward to sharing a thoughtful reflection of insights I’ve gleaned since my last ethno-blog entry on children and labor in the region. In the meantime, I am posting a link to a preliminary draft of a manuscript about gold mining in Madre de Dios that I’ve been working on for publication. This version is an experimental hybrid between an academic journal article and a photo essay that combines recently collected ethnographic data, fieldwork photography, and anthropological theory on unequal ecological exchange.

The perspective I take deviates considerably from what is typically published about gold mining in Madre de Dios by posing the question: How is it that the Andean peasant who migrated to Amazonia to escape destitution and who now works double shifts operating mining machinery for a meager short-term wage has come to represent greed and unfettered capitalism rather than the multi-millionaire investment banker on Wall Street who profits most from the consequences of gold mining in Madre de Dios, including deforestation, pollution, illness, and debt peonage? This piece is about inequality and interconnections. The first part is a material analysis of the localized consequences of the global gold boom in Madre de Dios. The second part is a cultural critique that interrogates the rationale and language invoked in discourses about gold mining in the region and the global gold trade to show how the machinations of capital accumulation from gold mining are mystified, or made to seem bewildering. Read it here:

DRAFT Gold Mining and Unequal exchange in Western Amazonia- A Theoretical Photo Journal

I leave you with a photo of a sunset/rainbow/storm cloud looming over Puerto Maldonado from a few days ago. The rainy season has arrived!

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