For nearly 20 years, the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo has endured massive human and ecological casualties, marked by harrowing tales of atrocities at the hands of various state and non-state actors. At the center of all this conflict is the extraction of and trade in minerals (such as coltan) essential to produce most of the electronic products we now associate with the digital age (mobile phones, gaming consoles). Some regard the calculus for the global exchange in these products as simple: militias that control these minerals (often through theft or forced labor of miners) buy arms to further their campaigns of terror. The 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, which requires American companies to exercise due diligence in ensuring that minerals used in the manufacture of their products are conflict-free, emerged out of those presumptions. But for thousands of Congolese involved in the production and trafficking of its mineral wealth, minerals represent the potential for enduring social networks and positive economic and social futures. Based on ethnographic data collected Anthropological Quarterly among middlemen in the mineral trade, we can identify at least three factors that can account for this disjuncture: the demonization of artisanal miners, the vilification of Congolese mineral traders, and the complications wrought by an elaborate international system in which minerals are laundered


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pp. 525-549
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