'The gold is gone': techniques, generativity and present-ism in the afterlife of a gold rush
(University College London)
Paper short abstract:
This paper explores temporal dynamics that have arisen in the aftermath of a gold rush in eastern Cameroon. Divergent temporalities are enacted within and between techniques of resource-making that attempt to fold the past and future into the present whilst articulating imaginings of generativity.
Paper long abstract:
This paper proposes an account of artisanal gold mining in eastern Cameroon and the temporal experiences and materialities that emerge from the recent arrival and departure of Chinese mechanised mining companies. Drawing on 18 months of ethnographic research with Gbaya mining communities, I analyse how the ensuing gold rush and radical depletion of the landscape's gold stocks have transformed a remote border region into a space of rapid socio-economic change, where the Gbaya continue using informal and makeshift mining practices to extract ever smaller quantities of gold left in the wake of the Chinese whilst declaring that "the gold is gone". Through a focus on the materiality of gold extraction, this paper considers how divergent temporalities are enacted in and transformed within technical processes of resource making. It shows how the future end of gold is brought into the present, quickened through the continued extraction of residual gold, which mobilises the vitality of the past through cyclical techniques of repetition and mimicry. In the afterlife of gold, complex temporalities are technically layered and folded into a constant 'present-ism'. I argue that the shift from material abundance to resource scarcity has created a radical sense of discontinuity and put into motion new and conflicting temporal dynamics between everyday practices of subsistence. The temporal rhythms, cycles and scales of cultivation, hunting and artisanal mining articulate points of cosmological convergence and divergence that reveal underlying (traditional and emerging) imaginings and desires surrounding understandings of the generativity, luck and value of gold.
Resource temporalities: anticipations, retentions and afterlives