Update: A podcast for the talk is now available on iTunes.
Download the poster here.
A decade ago no one except geologists had heard of tantalum or 'coltan' - an obscure mineral that is an essential ingredient in mobile phones and laptops. Then, in 2000, reports began to leak out of Congo: of mines deep in the jungle where coltan was extracted in brutal conditions watched over by warlords. The United Nations sent a team to investigate, and its exposť of the relationship between violence and the exploitation of coltan and other natural resources contributed to a re-examination of scholarship on the motivations and strategies of armed groups. In this talk, Michael Nest demonstrates how the political significance of coltan lies not in its causal link to violence, but in activists' skillful use of mobile phones as a symbol of how ordinary people and transnational corporations far from Africa are implicated in Congo's coltan industry and therefore its conflict. Examining the challenges coltan initiatives face in an activist 'marketplace' crowded with competing justice issues, Nest identifies lessons from coltan initiatives for the geopolitics of global resources more generally.
Michael Nest is an independent scholar working on governance and development issues related to natural resources. His previous book was on the economic dimensions of the Congo War.