Lecture | Research Seminar
CADS Spotlight: Tim van de Meerendonk & Esther van der Camp
- Monday 12 June 2023
- CADS Research Seminars
- Pieter de la Court
In this special edition of the CADS Research Seminars, two newly minted or nearly finished CADS PhDs present their work. This edition Tim van de Meerendonk and Esther van der Camp will talk about their research.
Claiming Crisis; Financial technology, Agricultural crisis and the morality of quantification in rural India
Indian farmers are widely believed to be in crisis. Scholars, policy makers, and development workers tend to agree that increasing economic uncertainty and changing weather cycles wreak havoc on the agricultural sector. To cushion these risks, the Indian government together with private partners introduced a new agricultural insurance scheme called Pradhan Mantri Faisal Bima Yoyana. ‘PMFBY’ mobilises the authority of quantification in service of achieving socially desirable and morally just outcomes by promising to accurately measure risk and price it according to fair calculation, which then serves as a basis for equitable pay-outs.
Tim van de Meerendonk explores what this dual dynamic of PMFBY as simultaneously moral and technical does for the meanings that everyday people in rural Maharashtra attach to insurance and crisis. To do this, Tim ethnographically describes the ‘moral work’ (Münster 2016: 110) which goes into making sense of the numbers insurance companies introduce to the lives of rural people. This ‘work’, he argues, helps them to make sense of the frequent discrepancies between the universal commitments of insurance companies and the contextual, incongruous everyday realities which it aims to control. Particularly, when the numbers fail to add up, they lead to moral contemplations, social quandaries and to value-laden interpretations about what the numbers stand for. Delving into this moral side of numbers allows him to look past the universalist language of quantity and squarely at its many qualities.
Water on the rocks
The PhD project is an interdisciplinary research on transformations to sustainability in Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Mining in Eastern Region Uganda. In the CADS Spotlight, Esther presents the chapter 'Water on the rocks'. Unlike rock, water has the ability to traverse mine sites: it finds the porous parts in the ground to move through, e.g. in soil, vein or rock.
In the context of sustainability, studies on water and mining predominantly focussed on water use and pollution. Building on anthropologists' increased attention for the materiality of the underground - in relation to gold mining - Esther explores how water further differentiates mine sites and, thereby, the workplaces and strategies of miners.
The PhD research is part of the project Gold Matters.