Privatization and social change in the Copperbelt region of Zambia

Table of contents

Introduction: There Used to Be Order
Chapter 1. Mining, Welfare and Urbanization: The Wavering Urban Character of Zambia’s Copperbelt
Chapter 2. “You Can’t Plan”: Dreams, Practice and Order
Chapter 3. “Getting by”: ‘Improvising a life’ on the Post-privatization Copperbelt
Chapter 4. Contesting Illegality: Women in the Informal Copper Business
Chapter 5. Performing Gender on the Copperbelt
Chapter 6. “Topping Up”: Life Amidst Hardship and Death
Conclusion: Making Life Out of Disorder



In There Used to Be Order, Patience Mususa considers social change in the Copperbelt region of Zambia following the re-privatization of the large state mining conglomerate, the Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines (ZCCM), in the mid-1990s. As the copper mines were Zambia’s most important economic asset, the sale of ZCCM was considered a major loss to the country. More crucially, privatization marked the end of a way of life for mine employees and mining communities. Based on three years of ethnographic field research, this book examines life for those living in difficult economic circumstances, and considers the tension between the life they live and the nature of an “extractive area.” This account, unusual in its examination of middle-income decline in Africa, directs us to think of the Copperbelt not only as an extractive locale for copper whose activities are affected by the market, but also as a place where the residents’ engagement with the harsh reality of losing jobs and struggling to earn a living after the withdrawal of welfare is simultaneously changing both the material and social character of the place. Drawing on phenomenological approaches, the book develops a theoretical model of “trying,” which accounts for both Copperbelt residents’ aspirations and efforts.

Patience Mususa is a senior researcher at the Nordic Africa Institute in Uppsala, Sweden.