Mining, urbanism and globalised trade in antiquity and contemporary Southern Africa

Ezekia Mtetwa (Uppsala University)
Joseph Mujere (University of Zimbabwe)
David Hume, LG.10
Session slots:
Wednesday 12 June, 16:15 - 18:00

Short abstract:

Africa's mineral resources have been mined for more than two millennia. We take the longue duree perspective to unravel the intertwined history of mining and urbanisation on the continent. In particular, we invite discussion on how the two phenomena unfolded in changing patterns of globalised trade.

Long abstract:

The varied mineral resources on the African continent have been exploited for more than two millennia. Before the advent of colonialism in the 19th century, iron, gold, tin and copper had already been mined, distributed and consumed in extensive long-distance, regional and intercontinental connections, leading to the rise of early urbanism and statehood in Africa. The colonial period onwards expanded the scale of exploitation of these minerals, incorporating new metals and gemstones, notably platinum, cobalt, diamond and tanzanite. We invite a multidisciplinary focus on this long history of mining and variety of mineral wealth in Africa. How far does the very constructed materiality of African urbanism reflect variation in the material and social practices of mining through time and space in Africa? To what extent and with what effects did shifts in the global events and connections drive local changes in the mining, distribution and consumption of particular mineral resources? African urbanism is often viewed as unsustainable, doomed and not working. How far can the making of Africa's urban systems and cities be viewed as a victim of the fate of the minerals which generated the development of both the ancient and contemporary cities? From the longue duree perspective, are we now in a position to understand the role of global events and the connection between regions and continents as drivers of local changes, particularly in the mining of Africa's minerals.