In his dissertation (published on his blog yesterday), anthropologist Alex Golub challenges popular notions on indigenous peoples, mining and globalisation. He has done research in a region that has gone through major transformations and fulfills every stereotype going "from the stone age to the jet age". Now, the third largest gold mine in the world resides in the once remote valley. Golubs dissertation is about the relationship between the Porgera gold mine and the Ipili-speaking people on whose land the mine is located.
His findings are very interesting and challenge stereotypes among both the general public, political activists and anthropologists. For example, indigenous people are not always "victims of economic globalisation":
While many would expect the intersection of a world-class gold mine and a relatively naïve indigenous people to result in a ‘fatal impact’ (Moorehead 1966), in fact the Ipili have been very successful at
extracting concessions from the mine and government.
[P]reconceptions of the Ipili as ecologically noble savages (Buege 1996) trampled on and degraded by global capitalism do not capture the complexity of Porgera’s politics.
[The Ipili] have actually became "one of the most active and successful fourth world people in the world today in terms of pressing claims against the state and transnational capitalism.
Another interesting point: Golub thinks that Papua New Guineans are much further along the road to understanding how "globalization" works than most anthropologists and that anthropologists have more to learn from them than they from us:
Where we see a dizzying flow of transnational entities and fractal, hybrid postmodern geographies, they see ‘Harry.’ Could it be we have something to learn from them rather than the other way around? ‘Landowners’ ability to sniff out the small knot of people behind stories of globalization is an incisive analytic move from which anthropologists who study “globalization” could learn.
Alex Golub goes an writing that studying globalization would require a very particular kind of academic discipline:
A discipline which delivers a richly detailed account of the lifeways of a small network of people as it is actually lived. A discipline attentive to the stories these people tell of themselves without uncritically accepting them as true. A discipline willing to recognize its entanglement in their lives without lapsing into either epistemological paralysis or the easy lie of a comfortable objectivity. In a world where our discipline is beset with doubts about its relevance, ethics, and epistemology, it may be that an anthropology which seeks to make itself feasible may have more to learn from Papua New Guineans than the other way around.
PS: I have just started reading the 436 pages