Extractive Desires: The Moral Control of Female Sexuality at Colombia’s Gold Mining Frontier: Moral Control of Female Sexuality


Cohen, Roseann. 2014. “Extractive Desires: The Moral Control of Female Sexuality at Colombia’s Gold Mining Frontier: Moral Control of Female Sexuality.” The Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology 19 (2): 260–79. doi:10.1111/jlca.12098.

Author: Roseann Cohen



During the 1990s, Amparo [an artisanal gold miner] mined along the heavily dissected terraces and floodplains of the Nechí River basin in Northeastern Antioquia and in the foothills of the San Lucas mountain range along the departmental border with Bolívar.

In this essay, I rely on Amparo’s narrative to examine the relationship between extractive accumulation and the moral control of female sexuality at a Colombian gold-mining frontier. Her narrative offers a commentary about life and work at the frontier as experienced by a nonwhite single mother at male-dominated mining camps. Amparo describes how she negotiates access to mines and maintains control over the products of her labor, albeit with limited success. In particular, Amparo’s participation in the gold-mining economy demonstrates how familiar scripts of gendered virtue (i.e., “proper” wife, single mother) and the contrary figure of the sexual deviant (i.e., loose woman, sex worker) play a role in the subject formation of artisanal miners and the ongoing dispossession this labor force experiences. I argue that the state’s emphasis on moral deviance among artisanal miners displaces extractive desires onto the bodies of laboring women, creating a resource-rich frontier where the moral control of female sexuality shapes pathways of dispossession and accumulation.

(Cohen, 2014, p. 260).

Topics: Economies, Extractive Industries, Gender, Women, Gender Roles, Gendered Power Relations, Livelihoods, Sexuality Regions: Americas, South America Countries: Colombia

Year: 2014

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