Tentative title: Trasient rivers and moving soils. The knowledge immersed in the mine. Ethnography on the dynamics of innovation in artisanal mining practices in Madre de Dios, Peru
Under the direction of: Dominique Vinck, University of Lausanne
The artisanal gold mining industry is responsible of between twenty and thirty percent of world gold production, sustaining more than fifteen million people worldwide (MMSD: 2008). However, this craft artisanal sector is better known for its negative impacts than for its economic benefits and social importance. SSH work on artisanal mining tends to focus on cultural, socio-political or environmental aspects. Research on socio-technical practices is not frequent. Nevertheless, some studies refer to the working techniques of gold panners and small-scale miners, suggesting a wide variety of practices and techniques worthy of analysis. What are the techniques and practices of artisanal miners? In what know-how are they based on? How is this know-how built and shared? How do these knowledges circulate and are reappropriated by the actors? This is the problem that motivates the objectives of our work, which is concerned with the articulation of questions dealing with the dynamics of innovation and the conservation of cultural heritage and know-how.
In this context, we have opted for a detailed analysis of artisanal mining practices in Madre de Dios, Peru's Amazon region, which is currently tangled between new economic policies for the region and new conservation models for the environment. To do this, we wished to open the "black boxes" of the components of mining practices (Vink:1999; Law; 1999; Callon:1999), in order to approach the sensitive thinking, design and perception of the technique (Hutchins: 1995) in the manner of a laboratory study (Latour :1987; Vinck:1999; Law :1999; Knorr Cetina :2005) and an anthropotechnological approach (Geslin :1998, 1999, 2002; Wisner :1994) for observation during action and in situation.