May it Never End: Fantasies & Drama of Fluctuating Temporality in Eastern DRC

Presentation by Professor James Smith, University of California, Davis

Monday, October 22, 2012
4:30 PM - 6:00 PM
10383 Bunche Hall
10th Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1310

In this paper, James Smith narrates recent Eastern Congolese experiences of price fluctuations in the mineral trade, and perceptions of the social land economic forces that control the trade and prices they obtain for their minerals (focusing mostly on coltan).   Price fluctuations in minerals have an enormous impact on peoples' lives and on the experience of space and time in the Eastern Congo, causing great disruptions, some of which are poignantly seared into collective memory.  Much of the work of Congolese miners and traders is about establishing some control over price, and hence lived experiences of social time, through the creation of local and regional networks based on trust that continues over time.  However, their efforts to create reliable networks are constantly undermined by exogenous forces that they don't control, and which are symbolically expressed in terms of price.  Congolese imagine powerful and highly organized global networks of powerful people who control their destiny, and they engage in all sorts of activities in an effort to profit from and accommodate these powerful networks which are at once imaginary and, for lack of a better word, real.

About James Smith:
James Howard Smith received his PhD in social-cultural anthropology from the University of Chicago in 2002, and is currently associate professor of anthropology and sociocultural wing chair at the University of California, Davis.  He was a Rockefeller Research Fellow at the Kroc Institute of International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame from 2003-2004.  His research interests include The Cultural Politics of Time, The Social Life of Globalized Substances (e.g., coltan mining in the DR Congo); Changing Local Understandings of “Development”; Resource Struggles and Politics in Africa; Witchcraft and Sorcery in Africa; Contemporary State Transformation; the Cultural and Political Consequences of “Neoliberalism;” Africa (especially East and Central).  Smith is the author of Bewitching Development:  Witchcraft and the Reinvention of Development in Neoliberal Kenya (University of Chicago Press, Series in the Practices of Meaning, 2008), and has written scholarly articles for Comparative Studies in Society and History, the Journal of Religion in Africa, the American Ethnologist, and Ethnography.   He is currently conducting collaborative research on the social life and political economy of coltan mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with funding from NSF. 

Cost : Free and open to the public; pay-by-space and all-day ($11) parking available in Lot 3

For more information please contact:

UCLA African Studies CenterTel: 310-825-3686