About me

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI studied Contemporary History and Conflict and Development at the University of Ghent. In 2007 I started working at the Institute of Development Policy (IOB) at the University of Antwerp, an inspiring working place where ‘development’ is studied as a patchy and dynamic, multi-level and multi-actor process. Together with my PhD supervisor prof. Stefaan Marysse, I started working on the political economy of the mining sector in the Democratic Republic of Congo. On my first field research in March 2008, I was amazed by the dynamism of life and work in Kamituga, a gold mining town in South Kivu province. This first experience oriented my research to study the micro-organization of artisanal gold mining and trade, looking at who benefits, and how, and which power relations exist within the mining sector. Contrary to many popular accounts of mining, including moral decay, criminalization and ‘conflict minerals’, I found the activities to be well regulated and the power relations to be ambiguous.

And so the research moved to a study of access, conceptualized as the ‘ability to benefit’ and different access and control mechanisms people use in order to benefit from the gold. Apart from Kamituga I selected two other critical case studies, Luhwindja and Mukungwe. Between 2008 and 2012 I have done (mainly qualitative) field research in Bujumbura (Burundi), Uvira, Bukavu, Kamituga, Luhwindja, Mukungwe, Lugushwa, Butembo and Bunia (DRC). In this period, the Congolese mining sector also underwent significant changes. In South Kivu, all mining activities had been artisanal, until very recently. Yet now that the security situation has improved in large parts of the province and the world gold price has been mounting, large scale industrial companies are taking a renewed interest. This is creating tensions between companies and communities, including artisanal miners. All this is happening in the context of a new globalized scramble for natural resources, international pressures, and external and internal initiatives to ‘regulate’ and ‘formalize’ the artisanal mining sector in the DRC. On May 5th, 2014 I successfully defended my PhD ‘Qui cherche, trouve. The political economy of access to gold mining and trade in South Kivu, DRC’. Enjoy the Prezi presentation here.

In October 2014 I started a new research project with the Research Foundations Flanders on ‘Transnational companies and local politics. Hybrid governance in mining concessions in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Ghana’.

In October 2016 I was appointed as a lecturer in International Development, Globalization and Poverty at the IOB. I am continuing my research project on Hybrid governance in mining concessions, and working on new projects on Linkages from large-scale mining and Labour in the extractive industries. I am teaching courses on Global Organization of Production: Value Chains and Labour, Access to (Labour and Product) Markets and Qualitative Data Analysis at IOB.

I have also been appointed, together with my colleague prof. An Ansoms from UCL, as director of ECA-CREAC, the expertise center for Central Africa which aims at spreading knowledge about Central Africa and providing a platform for exchange among academics, policy makers, civil society and private sector. In Bukavu I am leading a project, together with my Congolese counterpart Paul Robain Namegabe on mining governance, the CEGEMI (Centre d’Expertise en Gestion Minière).

You can find my CV (updated 2017) here: CV Sara Geenen (2017)