STREAM: Unearthing New Scholarship on the Central African Copperbelt

STREAM: Unearthing New Scholarship on the Central African Copperbelt

This stream invites panel and paper proposals from scholars working on the Central African Copperbelt. Interest in this region has revived markedly in recent years after a period of relative neglect, and this stream aims to bring together scholars from an array of disciplines to highlight and showcase the new work being done. We hope that gathering together scholars with focused regional expertise will facilitate an informed conversation on new research and breathe life into the Copperbelt Research Network initiated in December 2016.

The scope of this topic is narrow geographically but we intend that thematically it will be as broad as possible. Much previous research has focused on mining and labour, and while we welcome proposals on these topics, we would like to incorporate proposals on other aspects of everyday life, work, culture, language, environment, etc. on the Copperbelt, as well as reflections on research methodologies. We particularly welcome proposals building on the insight that the Congolese and Zambian Copperbelts, often studied separately in existing literatures, should be considered in the same frame of analysis.

Confirmed panels

Panel 1: Control and consequences of industrial copper mining in Zambia and DR Congo

Chair: Larmer, Miles (University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom)

This panel examines the place of mining in the national economies of Congo and Zambia, leading up to and in the decades after independence. Control over the mining industry was a preoccupation for regimes in both states, a complex endeavour as mining operations depended on cross-border ties and supplied international markets. Papers interrogate the way different actors presented ideas of economic development and struggled over the profits from mining and the future development of the industry. In particular, papers question the relevance of the national frame for understanding and writing the history of the mining sector, both in terms of business dynamics as well as the social and political impact of mining.

  • Years of Turbulence, Years of Hope: Central African Copperbelt and the Industrial Development in Congo-Léopoldville and Zambia, from Political Independence to the Economic Nationalisation , Abdelaal, Mostafa (Faculty of History- University of Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, United Kingdom)
  • Copper is now in our control”: Interrogating the motivations driving Zambian resource nationalism, Caramento, Alexander (Department of Politics, York University, Toronto, Canada)
  • A dual copperbelt? Union Minière, International Relations and the Creation of the Katangese copperbelt (1900-1930), Declercq, Robrecht (Postdoctoral Researcher of the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO), Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium)
  • Resource curse or blessing? The Impact of mining activities on schooling in Zambia , Juif, Dácil (Carlos III University, Madrid, Spain)

Panel 2: Cultural and knowledge production on the Central African Copperbelt

Chair: Duncan Money (International Studies Group, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa)

This panel explores cultural and knowledge production on the Central African Copperbelt, encompassing copper mining areas of DR Congo and Zambia. It showcases new research from early career researchers and moves beyond the often-narrow topics covered by the existing academic literature to examine music, knowledge production, environmental activism, sport and the utility of comparative perspectives. These authors reflect on how people have reacted to the impact of mining on their lives, society and environment. In so doing, they also trace how the border acts both as a barrier and a space for exchange and creativity. These papers will provide a fuller account of the everyday lives of Copperbelt inhabitants and how their lives have been understood by scholars.

  • Autonomy and control over pastime activities: football, physical drills and the competing understandings of leisure between Africans workers and mine officials on the colonial Zambian Copperbelt, Chipande, Hikabwa D. (The University of Zambia, Lusaka, Zambia)
  • Copperbelt Crossroads: The Expression of Historical Change in Everyday Life, Guene, Enid (University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom)
  • The Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines Archive: ‘A Storehouse of the Copperbelt Past’, Simabwachi, Miyanda (University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa)
  • Environmental dynamics of a highly polluting industry on the Central African Copperbelt, 1950s-2000s, Pesa, Iva (University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom)

Panel 3: Worker and Community Welfare in the copper mines of Zambia and DR Congo

Chair: Lochery, Emma (University of Liège, Liège, Belgium)

This panel examines dynamics of  worker and community welfare in the Zambian and Congolese copperbelts. Since privatisation of both countries’ state-owned mining enterprises in the late 1990s and early 2000s, mining companies of different sizes and origins have arrived in both DR Congo and Zambia to take over existing assets and develop new projects. A diverse set of investors has brought different work traditions with them; subcontracting and multi-unionism have reshaped employment regimes. New companies have publicised safety campaigns while some tout their environmental credentials.

Papers examine the issues of worker and community welfare that have arisen before, during and after privatisation, tracing how concerns rise to prominence locally and internationally, how actors frame problems, and how they push for solutions. Papers also analyse the tactics companies use to manage, respond to and anticipate criticism and the way their actions interact with those of community members, local and international activists, governments, national regulatory bodies, and international donors.

  • Accident and Death Rates on the Central African Copperbelt in Comparative Perspective, c.1910-1970, Money, Duncan (International Studies Group, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa)
  • Old Versus New: Comparing Environmental Practices in the ‘Old’ and ‘New’ Copperbelt Mining Regions of Zambia, Chansa, Chibamba Jennifer, (University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa)
  • Subcontracting, Work Experiences and Masculinities, Musonda, James (University of Liege, Belgium, Kitwe, Zambia)
  • Safety policy in the Katangese Mining Sector: An internalized culture? Pugliese, Francesca (Liege University, Liege, Belgium)

Panel 4: The Regulation of Labour in the Copper Mines of Zambia and DR Congo

Chair: Chansa, Chibamba Jennifer (University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa)

This panel analyses regimes of work and employment in the Congolese and Zambian copper mining sector since the privatisation of each country’s state-owned mining enterprise in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Papers focus on the interactions between private mining companies’ human resource management models and the legal and social norms governing employment in both countries. The panel asks how foreign companies navigate and contest employment norms, adjusting their management models but also provoking change in Congolese and Zambian labour regimes. Papers examine processes of negotiation, adjustment and conflict by asking how companies, state representatives, trade unionists and workers attribute responsibility for industrial harmony, understand and use the law, and justify their actions in the public sphere. Through case studies from both Congo and Zambia, the panel aims to contribute to a nuanced understanding of the interaction of foreign capital and domestic labour regimes.

  • “A Reasonable Negotiation?” Trade Unions’ conflicting responsibilities in Zambian Neoliberalism, McNamara, Thomas (Université de Liége, Liege, Belgium)
  • On Sell-outs and Strikes: The repertoire of resistance of a Congolese union delegation in a Chinese mining company, Geenen, Kristien (University of Liège, Liege, Belgium)
  • The Regulation of Labour in the Copper Mines of Zambia and DR Congo, Lochery, Emma (University of Liège, Liège, Belgium)
  • “Starting on Gécamines’ Ashes”: The HR Management Practices of New Mining Companies in the Congolese Copperbelt, Rubbers, Benjamin (University of Liège, Liege, Belgium)

If you have any queries or suggestions please contact Duncan Money ( and Emma Lochery ( For panel and paper submissions please follow the instructions on the website 

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