Mining: Anthropological Perspectives
Annual Review of Anthropology
Vol. 14: 199-217 (Volume publication date October 1985)
Ricardo Godoy
In lieu of an abstract, the publisher reproduces the first page of the article. (Link)

Letters to My Tutor…

My dearest Simone,

Ricardo Godoy seems a man after my first anthropology professor’s heart. The review reads like one would expect if a mining conglomerate had hired an anthropologist to write such a thing, which is just the type of work my first anthropology professor recommended (she discouraged academia and ethnography). That’s not to say that it reads as if from an industry mouthpiece; there’s objectivity still. Godoy does a good job of presenting a variety of viewpoints; it’s just that the emphasis and de-emphasis seems somewhat more favorable to mining companies as opposed to the people or the state.

Godoy divides the review into three sections: economics, sociopolitical considerations and ideological considerations.  He writes of the financial risks involved in locating mining resources.  The search can be expensive with no guarantee of a payoff.  He points to discussions of how the harsh working conditions, company-favorable legislation, and geographic isolation and so on that come with mining have encouraged worker solidarity and political organization.  He gives a firm nod to the work of Mircea Eliade (The Forge and the Crucible) for those wanting to read more about the  miners’ belief system.  He writes that Eliade “draws the analogy between obstetrics and mining, with ore equated to embryo, mine to uterus, shaft to vagina, and miner to obstetrician.”

Even with the brief overview of issues in anthropological studies of mining, I find myself wanting to rewatch movies with mining components.  Movies like Billy Elliot, in which mining isn’t the main focus, come to mind.  The movie is set during a miners’ strike, but the main story has to do with a boy’s love of dance.  Even without further reading, I might notice more the movies’ commentary on mining towns and mining families and the mining industry.  Is there any language equating the mine to a womb or to hell? Are there any references, no matter how brief or subtle, as to how mining has impacted the area, any hint of what the town was like before mining? In a movie in which mining isn’t the main focus, the commentary is more pointed and selective which is what appeals to me at the moment with this topic.  Billy Elliot is streaming on Netflix (seems I watched it November of last year), so maybe I will give it another watch soon.

With much sweetness,