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Moving Frontiers in the Amazon: Brazilian Small-Scale Gold Miners in Suriname

Authors:

Marjo de Theije ,

VU University Amsterdam, NL
About Marjo

Marjo de Theije is associate professor in anthropology at the VU University Amsterdam. She has long-standing research experience in Brazil and Suriname, mainly in religion, gender, and recently also on small scale gold mining, related to development, Maroon culture, and migration. Her latest publications include: ‘Migration and Religious Transnationalism: Recent Research and the Case of the Brazilians in Suriname’, in P. Birle, S. Costa & H. Nitschack (eds) Brazil and the Americas. Convergence and Perspectives (pp. 151-170). Madrid / Frankfurt am Main: Iberoamericana/ Vervuert Verlag (2008); and, ‘Ouro e Deus: sobre a relação entre prosperidade, moralidade e religião no garimpo de Suriname’, Religião e Sociedade, Vol. 28, No. 1, pp. 69-83 (2008).

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Marieke Heemskerk

NL
About Marieke

Marieke Heemskerk is a cultural anthropologist with 13 years of research experience in small and artisanal mining areas. She is currently living and working as an independent researcher in Suriname. Her latest publications include: Heemskerk and others, ‘Collecting data in artisanal mining communities. Measuring Progress towards more Sustainable Livelihoods’, Natural Resources Forum 29: 82-87 (2005). 

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Abstract

This article explores the national, local, and personal frontiers that Brazilian small-scale gold miners – called garimpeiros – cross in their quest for gold in the larger Amazon region. Ethnographic research was conducted among garimpeiros and mining service providers in Suriname. In the past three decades, thousands of Brazilian migrants have entered Suriname and consequently affected its society, economy, and culture. It is argued that in the absence of strong state control, these garimpeiros, along with local forest peoples and legal title holders, are traversing the fluctuating boundaries. These boundaries include national borders, customary and legal regulations, technological limitations, and personal livelihood goals. The continuous reformulation of these multiple boundaries drives the development of local mining cultures. Social networks increase the volatility of formal and informal borders, and are the key to these mining cultures as well. The authors conclude that while entering Suriname and its gold mines is relatively easy, financial and conceptual barriers often prevent miners from leaving.

Resumen: Fronteras fluctuantes en el Amazonas: los mineros artesanales de oro en Suriname

Este artículo explora las fronteras nacionales, locales y personales que cruzan los garimpeiros (como se llama a los mineros brasileños que trabajan explotaciones auríferas a pequeña escala) en su búsqueda de oro en la región amazónica. La investigación etnográfica en que se basa este artículo se realizó entre garimpeiros y proveedores de servicios para la minería en Suriname. En las últimas tres décadas, miles de inmigrantes brasileños han llegado a Suriname y afectado su sociedad, economía y cultura. En el artículo se sostiene que en ausencia de un control estatal fuerte, los garimpeiros, junto con grupos indígenas locales y tenedores de tierra legítimos, cruzan estas fronteras fluctuantes, que incluyen las fronteras nacionales, las regulaciones aduaneras y legales, las limitaciones tecnológicas y los objetivos de supervivencia personal. Esta continua reformulación de fronteras múltiples sostiene el desarrollo de las culturas mineras locales. Las redes sociales aumentan la volatilidad de las fronteras formales e informales, y son de crucial importancia para estas culturas mineras. Los autores concluyen que aunque entrar a Suriname y a sus minas de oro es relativamente fácil, las barreras conceptuales y económicas a menudo impiden que los mineros vuelvan a casa.

DOI: http://doi.org/10.18352/erlacs.9600
How to Cite: de Theije, M., & Heemskerk, M. (2009). Moving Frontiers in the Amazon: Brazilian Small-Scale Gold Miners in Suriname. ERLACS, (87), 5–25. DOI: http://doi.org/10.18352/erlacs.9600
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Published on 15 Oct 2009.
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