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

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

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)
  • “Little Lawyers”: HR Managers as interface between foreign capital and domestic labour markets, Lochery, Emma,  (University of Liège, Liege, Belgium)
  • “Starting on Gécamines’ ashes”: The HR management practices of new mining companies in the Congolese copperbelt, Rubbers, Benjamin,(University of Liège, Liege, Belgium)

Work in Mining: Change, negotiation, and resistance in the copper mines of Zambia and DR Congo.

This panel examines the social world of work 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, and trends of subcontracting and multi-unionism have reshaped employment regimes.

This panel examines how new work regimes are developing through interaction between mining companies and workers, trade unions and government authorities.  Papers focus on how employment regimes are being experienced, interpreted and challenged by mineworkers. The papers consider two main dynamics: emerging forms of social differentiation and negotiation of employment regimes across boundaries of culture and class.

  • Subcontracting, Work Experiences and Masculinities, Musonda, James,(University of Liege, Belgium, Kitwe, Zambia)
  • 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)
  • Safety policy in the Katangese Mining Sector: An internalized culture?, Pugliese, Francesca, (Liege University, 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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