Accepted Paper:

Imaginaries of capitalism in Sierra Leone: linking distant human beings through the invisible  

Author:

Lorenzo D'Angelo (University of Reading)

Paper short abstract:

In Sierra Leone the Qur’anic cosmology has become a source of symbols and images for elaborated mineral cosmogonies. This paper argues that a critical analysis of diamond miners’ relationship with jinn is crucial to understand the distance relationship with the bodies of diamond consumers.

Paper long abstract:

Inspired by the notion of “radical imaginary” (Castoriadis), and by the debate on the fetishism of commodities, my ethnographic research in the artisanal diamond mines of Sierra Leone (2007-2011) shows how long-term historical experiences of uncertainty and risk, exploitation and violence have sedimented in the imaginaries and ecological praxis of the miners.

In this paper I argue that the Qur’anic cosmology has become a source of symbols and images for elaborated mineral cosmogonies. According to several miners, diamonds belong to, or are under the control of, invisible beings known as dεbul or jinn. In the south-eastern diamondiferous areas of Sierra Leone, there are miners who turn to these invisible presences to increase their chances to find the precious stones and accumulate an extraordinary wealth in a short period of time.

What I wish to suggest is that the images of the jinn dramatize the distance relationship with ‘absent persons’ who, however distant and unknown they may be, are historically linked to this African region through an extended and centuries-old network of social and economic relations.

This paper argues that a critical analysis of this “magma” of meanings and practices is crucial to understand the distance relationship between gem-producers and gem-consumers. By taking into account the point of view of those who are lying on the fringes of the global commodity chains this paper advocates the value of an approach that goes beyond the ontology of determinacy and call our attention on contingency and social creativity.

Panel BH23
Non-human and human beings and their entanglements within Muslim milieux