Culture and Conflicts in Sierra Leone Mining

Culture and Conflicts in Sierra Leone Mining

Strangers, Aliens, Spirits

By Fenda Akiwumi

Anthem Advances in African Cultural Studies

International Environmental Policy Series

This book argues that mining area conflicts of Sub-Saharan African countries, like Sierra Leone, and their impacts on mineral development and policy stem from cultural differences in land governance. Extractive industries operating under state laws, which have roots in colonial policies, clash with customary land governance system through landlord-stranger relations.

Hardback, 160 Pages


March 2024

£80.00, $110.00

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About This Book

In Culture and Conflicts in Sierra Leone Mining: Strangers, Aliens, Spirits, the author uses Sierra Leone as a case study to contribute to the debates on the causes and nature of mineral resource conflicts in Africa. Many works focus on the political economy of more sensitive large-scale mining conflicts. This book integrates cultural conflict dimensions, primarily the clash between the centuries-old customary landlord-stranger land governance institution and state mining policies and laws governing extraction.

Extractive industries as outsiders or strangers with no land rights threaten centuries-old cultural norms of indigenous landlords in mining regions. The Sierra Leone colonial government facilitated a stranger hierarchy through crafting legislation that redefined autochthony, citizenship, and micro-cultural identities concerning the stranger. Such actions further exacerbated power imbalances in race, ethnicity, gender, age, and social class. This legacy persists in postcolonial Sierra Leone threatening sustainable development mainly based on mineral extraction. The book shows that these cultural conflicts challenge the effective development of the mining sector, including establishing artisanal mining as a viable complementary livelihood to agriculture for rural populations.

Rather than focus on the well-documented large-scale “blood diamond” war from 1991 to 2001 as other studies have done, the book examines the less-investigated, persistent culture-related conflicts that are historically integral to mineral extraction. Such conflicts impact the efficient flow of mineral commodity chains. The book uses a world-system notion of commodity chains characterized by unequal economic exchange and unequal ecological exchange. And it highlights, specifically, an unequal cultural exchange that impacts cultural heritage, including customary livelihoods, indigenous land rights, and sacred places, and favors a Western cultural universalism. Itexamines mining policies and laws of the government of Sierra Leone in a historical context to assess their efficacy by highlighting colonial relics that continue to thwart development efforts. Her work underscores the need for effective participation by vulnerable and marginalized communities in decision-making processes on matters important to their economic, environmental, and sociocultural sustainability.

The interdisciplinary work highlights how culture, history, environment, and society intertwine in the Sierra Leone mining industry and the effects of global, transnational, and local dynamics and interactions.


“Dr. Fenda A. Akiwumi has crafted an original contribution to the literature on Sierra Leone’s incorporation into the global capitalist system through a skillful blend of the scholarly literature and data in the areas of anthropology, political economy, and cultural dynamics manifested in culture clash, coalescence, and unequal cultural exchange in the mining area. It is a very engaging, scholarly, and interesting volume that upper-class undergraduates and graduate students, researchers, and general readers will find very useful. It is a concise, but at the same time detailed, vivid, and rigorous portrayal of the several themes that are predicated on the interactive dynamics of traditionalism and modernity during colonial and postcolonial periods.” —Dr. Earl Conteh-Morgan, University of South Florida, USA.

“Akiwumi delves deep into the cultural milieu in which competition for land and mining rights pitches the postcolonial state against customary authority. Only now do we see clearly that the fight over resources in Africa is stewed in the internal and external idioms of class, power, ethnicity, gender, nativity, identity, and spirituality.” —Raphael Njoku, Idaho State University, USA.

“This book offers an original way of discussing environmental, political, and extractive issues in Sierra Leone and more broadly in West Africa. One can appreciate the author’s ‘first-hand knowledge’ by paying attention to details that only a few experts on Sierra Leone’s history and cultural dynamics can have.” —Lorenzo D’Angelo, Sapienza University of Rome, Italy.

Author Information

Fenda A. Akiwumi is an environmental and social geographer whose research is at the intersection of the sciences, social sciences, and the humanities, with an applied, policy, and community-engaged focus. Using an interdisciplinary, holistic approach, she interrogates the relationship between resource conflicts, cultural heritage, and sustainable mining development in Africa.


Anthem Advances in African Cultural Studies

International Environmental Policy Series

Table of Contents

List of Figures and Tables; Acknowledgements; Abbreviations; 1.Introduction: Culture in Commodity Chains; 2.Sierra Leone’s Global Incorporation Through Mining; 3.Cultural Difference: Policy and Legislative Dilemmas; 4.Sacred Places: Local Ontology Meets Global Capital; 5.Strangers, Environment, and Livelihoods; 6.Race, Ethnicity, Class, and Gender in Mining; 7.Between a Rock and a Hard Place; 8.Conclusion; References; Index    


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