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Miners' magic: artisanal mining, the albino fetish and murder in Tanzania

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Disciplines
  • Linguistics

Abstract

A series of murders of albinos in Tanzania's north-west mining frontier has been shrouded in a discourse of primitivism by the international and national press, sidestepping the significance of the contextual circumstances of an artisanal mining boom firmly embedded in a global commodity chain and local profit maximisation. The murders are connected to gold and diamond miners' efforts to secure lucky charms for finding minerals and protection against danger while mining. Through the concept of fetish creation, this article interrogates the agency of those involved in the murders: the miners who purchase the albino charms, the waganga healers renowned for their healing, divination and sorcery skills who prescribe and sell the charms, and the albino murder victims. The agrarian background, miners' ambitions and a clash of values comprise our starting point for understanding the victimisation of albinos.

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