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  • Diamonds in the Rough: Corporate Paternalism and African Professionalism on the Mines of Colonial Angola, 1917–1975 by Todd Cleveland
  • Hauwa Mahdi
Diamonds in the Rough: Corporate Paternalism and African Professionalism on the Mines of Colonial Angola, 1917–1975 by, Todd Cleveland. Athens, Ohio University Press, 2015. xv, 289 pp. $80.00 US (cloth), $32.95 US (paper or e-book).

Todd Cleveland explores the intertwined history of the Portuguese colonial state, Diamang, a diamond mining company, and the native Angolan miners. The entanglement of this history travels the maze of astute political calculations by the three actors and their occasional grand-standing, each tampered by the realism of their situated interests. Diamonds and technologies of production are secondary in this work, other than the company's slow adaptation to improved technology. The central question in the book is labour supply and the enforced relationship it warranted.

Diamonds in the Rough makes Diamang the empirical point of departure and through it engages six themes that connect the company to the two other actors. In seven chapters it engages the "labor process" (10), conceptualizes the emergence of "social and occupational professionalism" [End Page 637] (11), coerced labour, Women's labour, Diamang's implementation of social professionalism and lastly the uniqueness of Diamang's power, which eventually makes the company a "state within a state" (15). Diamang needed the state to obtain workers, the state needed the natives to work so they can pay taxes, and the natives needed to work for the company for the same reason. An important contribution of the book lies in how the scholar has adeptly re-constructed the three actors' participation in the evolving entanglement of colonial, company, and natives' history in the Lunda region from 1917 to 1975.

The book weaves the relationship of the trio initiated for the purpose of extracting diamonds, through which history, each actor continually reevaluates and reacts to the changing circumstance. The state was the primary labour supplier whether the people became workers as shibalo (forced labourers), contratados (workers who entered through forcibly extracted contracts for a period of time) or as voluntários (willing employees), obtained through local chiefs and the local colonial administrators or chefes de posto. Diamang needed state intervention for the supply of labour that formed the backbone of their operation throughout the period.

Two factors are important in the evolving company policy toward workers. First, in this stage of late colonialism, the international environment is alert to abuses of the colonized. Second, because the company needed to minimize desertion by workers, it is ensnared into becoming a welfare provider. Based on oral testimonies from former employees and company records, the book shows how lessons were learned, where the 1930s marks a watershed in Diamang's welfare policy, as did its profits. The book substantiates how company involvement in farming and food supply, including the provision of prepared midday meals for workers, housing, environmental and health care services enthused the company's paternalism fueled by the profit motive and the workers' professionalism.

With improved services the workers too developed a pragmatic strategy (professionalism) of coping with abuses and the inhumane workload. Among others, the workers' strategies included lodging complaints about particularly harsh overseers, assisting each other to finish up the daily individual quotas of work and friendships that transcended marital status, rank in the company, or ethnic background. There was no mention of open or concerted collective rebellions against the company as in other mining areas.

Colonial administrators also adapted their strategies accordingly — accommodating the company's needs despite the inevitable tensions between them in the exercise of power over Lunda. As the profits of the company grew and its service to the province too, so did the dependency of the administration and the company on each other. Diamang came to exercise [End Page 638] financial muscle not only over the local administration, but the government in Lisbon.

The generous citation of archival materials and oral testimonies makes the book a rich source in itself. It acquaints the reader with the thoughts of the workers, who, since national independence and the conflicts that have engulfed their country, have had time to reflect on those...


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pp. 637-639
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