From Corporate Paternalism to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR): Mining, History and Heritage

The interdisciplinary research group of Dr Sabine Luning (Cultural Anthropology), Dr. Alexander Geurds (Archaeology) and Dr. Jan-Bart Gewald (History and African Studies Centre) will plan a workshop involving Leiden and international scholars to explore the relationship between Corporate Social Responsibility in the mining sector and heritage projects. Granted: €6000

The group will plan a two-day workshop involving international participants to set a research agenda on heritage as part of public-private partnership and elaborate ideas for submitting a research proposal. The research group takes a cross-regional perspective on CSR practices of transnational corporations (TNC’s) on mining operations in Africa, Canada, Latin America and Asia. How did company ethics transform from taking care of employees to acting responsibly in wider social settings of mining operations? How are these changes part of global processes of redefining tasks and relations between international institutions, corporations, states and groups in civil society? How has this affected notions of welfare, responsibilities, and development? How do global standards define company-community engagements in the vicinity of mining operations? How are local situations informed by values that are dressed up as universal? How does the language of human rights, indigeneity, and heritage shape interactions at different scales; how do these notions travel in international arenas and how do they transform while playing into local dynamics? What is the role of academic experts in CSR projects articulating ‘global’ values in shaping ‘local’ practices of care taking?

These research questions contribute to theoretical and methodological approaches in anthropology, history and archaeology. Current debates on TNC’s under neoliberalism focus on land rights/grabs at the expense of attention for labour issues (Murray Li 2011). The study of historical shifts in company ethics allows reconnecting theorizing on corporate form (Welker 2009) to issues of value of labour and land. Neoliberalization of the mining sector is best analysed as a ‘thinning out’ of company-provided social facilities for workers in mining towns. This has implications for ideas on welfare (Gewald & Soeters 2010, Rajak 2008), but also for issues of territoriality and sovereignty. Nowadays, ‘thin’ mineral-extraction enclaves shape spatial grids of nation-states and local social interactions (Ferguson 2005). Current CSR practices around mining operations are predicated, primarily, on ideas concerning mitigation of impact. This requires assessments of rights and practices to be safeguarded, and - in view of dispossession and displacements - compensated. Heritage projects around mining operations proliferate, involving experts with experience e.g. at UNESCO, many of them archaeologists and anthropologists, providing consultation on for example prioritization of material heritage. Theoretical debates concern the morals and procedures for company – community engagements (Coumans 2011, Luning 2012), but also the relationship between materiality and sociality. For instance, a project for industrial heritage in Canada can feature as best practice providing lessons for how to proceed in safeguarding heritage prior to the building of a new mine (Rio Tinto 2011). Thing-biased heritage approaches appear to inform the organization of heritage in places marked by a strong presence of people and social practices. Moreover, tangible heritage appears to model practices for safeguarding intangible heritage. Scrutiny of such CSR projects will foreground debates on the relationship between the material and the social (Geurds 2011); on the politics of seeing the social (Scott 1998, Stoler 2013); on the commensurability of values in compensation practices (Maurer 2005); as well as on the ethics for experts (Shepherd & Haber 2011, Calhoun 2012). Finally, methodologically this interdisciplinary and cross-regional project is inspired by theoretical insights on the study of global connections (Tsing 2005).

The Workshop
The two-day workshop will bring together international experts; academics, consultants, but also representatives of social movements, NGO’s and professionals from industry. The participants will be experts on global capital flows, heritage management, mining operations, international law, land and labour rights, CSR & company-community engagements. The purposes are: 1) to think through practices of valorising knowledge and claims to expertise by scrutinizing empirical cases of CSR practices; 2) to determine a wider research agenda on public-private partnership of which CSR practices and heritage projects are exemplary; 3) To reflect on the ethics of knowledge production in collaborations between academia, the private sector and other stakeholders; 4) to work towards a proposal that can be submitted for funding, and a publication.

See workshop annoucement and conference website.

Project Coordinators:
Dr. Sabine Luning (Anthropology)
Dr. Alexander Geurds (Archaeology)
Dr. Jan-Bart Gewald (ASC)

Grant awarded March 2013

Last Modified: 08-06-2015