Privatization and social change in the Copperbelt region of Zambia
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.
“In the wealth of literature on mining and mine communities in Africa, arguably no case study has been subject to more intensive interest than the Zambian Copperbelt. With There Used to Be Order, Patience Mususa provides an ethnographically rich, contemporary and creative academic contribution to the study of the Zambian Copperbelt and to mining communities in Africa more broadly. In this beautiful book, Mususa takes the reader on a journey through the everyday navigation of hardship and precarity by primarily middle-class Copperbelt residents, with whom she lived and amongst whom she conducted her research.”
—Anthropology Southern Africa- Anthropology Southern Africa