Underming the Local: Migration, Development and Gold in Kayes
The ambiguity of development discourse provides, like in all other discourses, a terrain of contest. The vocabulary is malleable, and may accommodate opposing visions of what development means and does. Two such visions are in competition throughout Mali’s westernmost region of Kayes, where an official idea of ‘the local’ comes up against another expressed by the region’s principle economic activities – gold mining, both artisanal and, to a lesser extent, industrial – and principle economic processes – migration, within Mali and abroad – which throw into question not only the development priority with ‘the local,’ but also and foremost, where and what the local is. For more than half of a century, development interventions, state violence, and discursive assumptions about the ‘developee’ in Kayes have aimed to tie people to the land. Policies reflect a conception of development limited to a particular geographic space, and hostile to activities that traverse it. On the other hand, ‘locals’ privilege over the ‘local’ a global vision of development and citizenship that infers the right to geographic mobility in the search of economic gain. The economic promise of orpaillage and migration; the influence of migrants on ‘local’ governance; and worker and community conflicts at Kayes’s four industrial gold mines inform a political imagination in which legitimate claims on ‘the local’ can be made in global arena.