The Nordic Africa Institute

Man sits in in front of screens in a smelter control room.

A smelter control room in Mopani mine, Zambia. Photo: photosmith2011/Flickr

Date • 1 Dec 2021

In this book, Patience Mususa considers social change in the Copperbelt region of Zambia following the privatization of the large state mining conglomerate, the Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines (ZCCM), in the mid-1990s.

Book cover.

New book: There Used to Be Order: Life on the Copperbelt after the Privatisation of the Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines External link, opens in new window.

As the copper mines were Zambia’s most important economic asset, the sale of ZCCM was considered a major loss to the country. More crucially, privatization marked the end of a way of life for mine employees and mining communities.

Based on three years of ethnographic field research, this book examines life for those living in difficult economic circumstances, and considers the tension between the life they live and the nature of an “extractive area.” This account, unusual in its examination of middle-income decline in Africa, directs us to think of the Copperbelt not only as an extractive locale for copper whose activities are affected by the market, but also as a place where the residents’ engagement with the harsh reality of losing jobs and struggling to earn a living after the withdrawal of welfare is simultaneously changing both the material and social character of the place.

Drawing on phenomenological approaches, the book develops a theoretical model of “trying,” which accounts for both Copperbelt residents’ aspirations and efforts.