Foto del docente

Timothy Raeymaekers

Senior assistant professor (fixed-term)

Department of History and Cultures

Academic discipline: M-GGR/02 Economic and Political Geography


Collaboration with:
University of Zürich (Switzerland) and Lund (Sweden)
This research project reveals how the extraction of the world’s underground resources territorializes through artisan mining labour. It is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and co-hosted by the Department of Geography, University of Zürich, the Department of Human Geography, Lund University, and it is in partnership with the University of Zimbabwe, the University of Ouagadougou I, the Institut National des Sciences des Sociétés in Burkina Faso, and the Groupe d’Etudes sur les Conflits et la Sécurité Humaine (GEC-SH) based at CERUKI/ISP in Bukavu, DRC. By extractive labour we mean the commodified work that serves to obtaining value from ‘natural’ mineral deposits. By territorialisation we mean the way such labour is socially and spatially embedded in multi-scalar extractive assemblages. In the debate on planetary sustainability, mining has come under renewed scrutiny for its environmentally and socially damaging impact. However, the discussion tends to be limited to large-scale extraction sites. Considering that an estimated 40 million people worldwide work in artisan and small-scale mining (ASM), there arises a need to assess the wider role of such arguably ‘informal’ and ‘non-industrialized’ resource (re)production in social, political and environmental terms. Our research focuses on Africa, more specifically Zimbabwe, DR Congo and Burkina Faso. The studied resource will be gold, the production of which – partially due to the ongoing global financial crisis - is experiencing unprecedented levels. We investigate the central role the mobile and often highly precarious extractive work of African artisan mine workers plays in transforming natural gold deposits into commodities. And we highlight the relations and networks through which extractive labour become embedded in the local context – notably through processes of sprawling urbanisation. In so doing, this comparative research will reveal the conditions under which extractive frontiers materialize in contexts where the commodification of natural resources is often highly contested and embedded unequally in global supply chains.
Collaboration with:
Zürcher Hochschule der Künste (Zürich Arts School) & Museum für Gestaltung (Design Museum)
“Digitization,” or “digitalization,” originally referred only to the conversion of analogue information into digital data. But in the meantime, digitalization has become much more than a simple translation process: it is fundamentally transforming our world. Traces of this digital transformation can be found everywhere. In addition to a close-meshed network of fiber optic cables and 4000 or so satellites orbiting the planet, people worldwide are constantly with mining for gold and other raw materials, under the harshest of conditions, in order to supply the resources needed to manufacture ever-growing numbers of computers, tablets, and smartphones. These devices have radically increased the speed of communication, enabling unprecedented gains in knowledge and bridging distances between people and countries in nanoseconds, but they have also given rise to new rifts, problems, and conflicts. In the age of hate speech, deep fakes, and self-learning algorithms, issues of ethics, data privacy, and surveillance are becoming more and more urgent. Planet Digital brings together diverse aspects of digitalization under one roof, exploring what holds this digital world together. The projects are interdisciplinary collaborations between research and design, involving over 100 of the most creative minds at Zurich’s universities. Planet Digital is jointly curated by the Graduate Campus of the University of Zurich (UZH) and the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, made possible by the Stiftung Mercator Schweiz and the Digitalization Initiative of the Zurich Universities (DIZH). The installation Digital Gold offers insights beneath the surfaces of the mobile tech industry by focusing on the concrete challenges and living conditions of artisanal gold miners in the region of Kamituga (Democratic Republic of Congo). The irony of digital gold as an enabler and inhibitor of global privilege forms the central entry of this segment of the Planet Digital Exhibition: on the one hand, we invite visitors to look beneath the shiny surfaces of the smartphone industry and engage with the concrete challenges and living conditions of artisanal miners in the Democratic Republic of Congo. On the other hand, we have the opportunity to communicate with each other across distance through the use of digital technology. From working in the narrow mine shafts to the panning of gold and the selling of the extracted material, visitors can follow the concrete stages of gold extraction and its global entanglements and share their perplexities and insights on the exhibition website. The immersive experiences of the exhibition are based on interviews, videos and 3D scans, captured in the Kamituga region by PhD student Gabriel Kamundala (Department of Geography, University of Zurich) with the help of a smartphone. We hope the irony of using these digital methods to capture the challenges of the tech industry won’t be lost on the visitor, but rather food for thought. Digital Gold is a co-operation between [Credits Saal] Gabriel Kamundala / Timothy Raeymaekers, Geographisches Institut, UZH // Muriel Côte, Department of Human Geography, University of Lund // Christian Iseli, Florian Bruggisser, Mariana Vieira Gruenig, Kristina Jungic, Chris Elvis Leisi, Alliance Riziki Murhula, Patrycja Pakiela, Alan Sahin, Immersive Arts Space, ZHdK

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