Recent decades have witnessed a growing scholarly interest in women’s involvement in ASM, with many authors drawing attention to two frequently occurring trends: the fact that women move to mining areas to escape oppressive gender rules and norms, and the remarkable efforts of women miners to exercise agency in the typically complex and unstable socio-political environments of artisanal mining sites. An important gap in the existing literature is the lack of attention for the differences in agency and the power relations between these women. This article seeks to fill this gap by presenting an ethnographic case study on the so-called mamans moutrousses, a group of women assisting artisanal miners with the drying and cleaning of minerals in coltan mines close to Kisengo, a locality situated in the Congolese Tanganyika province. Drawing inspiration from Vigh’s navigation theory, the work of Honwana, and the spatial approach advanced by Watts and Korf, the article argues that the less successful women in Kisengo’s mining business have only been able to display ‘tactic agency’, while the more successful ones have succeeded in demonstrating ‘strategic agency’.
This article has been written by Marie- Rose Baswhira and Jeroen Cuvelier in 2019.
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