Child Labour, Agency and Family Dynamics: The Case of Mining in Katanga (DRC)


Andre, G., and M. Godin. 2014. “Child Labour, Agency and Family Dynamics: The Case of Mining in Katanga (DRC).” Childhood 21 (2): 161–74. doi:10.1177/0907568213488966.

Authors: G. Andre, M. Godin


In the last three decades, the development of the artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) sector has been increasing in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), bringing more and more urban families into this flourishing business sector, and among them, children. This article aims to look at the often unconceivable, and as a result neglected, social agency of children even when they are involved in activities which are, in the international legislation on children’s rights, categorized as one of the worst forms of child labour. To do so, it relies on the results of a socio-anthropological collective research project on children’s mining activities which was carried out in a small locality called La Ruashi in the city of Lubumbashi (Province of Katanga). The article aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of these child mining-related activities by looking at different spheres of social relations within which children are embedded. Examining the set of social relations that children have with their families, the broader community and their ‘peers’, several ‘family portraits’ are offered, highlighting a heterogeneity of social interpretations regarding this form of child work. It is shown that for families from a middle-class background, this kind of work is often socially disruptive, at the forefront of intergenerational conflict. As for families from lower classes, social changes induced by children’s mining activities are often better incorporated into the family habitus. Common dynamics, encountered in all families irrespective of class belonging, is also portrayed.

Keywords: children's agency, child work in artisanal mining, interdependencies, intergenerational relationships, social differentiation of childhood

Topics: Age, Youth, Development, Economies, Extractive Industries, Gender, Girls, Boys, Households, Livelihoods Regions: Africa, Central Africa Countries: Democratic Republic of the Congo

Year: 2014

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