ERC Consolidator Grant

The reinvention of paternalism. Micro-labour policies in mining companies in Central Africa


Benjamin Rubbers, researcher at the Laboratory of Social and Cultural Anthropology (LASC - Faculty of Social Sciences - IRSS Research Unit) obtains an ERC Consolidator Grant to continue his research in the field of occupational anthropology. Called WORKINMINING, the project supported by Europe focuses on micro-labour policy in mining companies in Central Africa.


enjamin Rubbers, PhD in anthropology, just got an ERC grant from the European Research Council (ERC) for his project that is financially similar to the Grail of the Researcher: a five-year contract. With financial support ranging from €1.5 to €2.5 million depending on the case, the ERC represents significant funding. The project of Benjamin Rubbers and his team is original in two ways. Indeed, it is first of all a study that seeks to compare in a comprehensive way the labour policies of new mining investors and their consequences in two Central African countries, Congo and Zambia. These two states have experienced a mining rebound over the past two decades, especially in the copper sector.

Moreover, having chosen to study this subject from a labour perspective is the second originality. "This was a fairly classic focus in the 1970s but had been overshadowed over the past three or four decades in the study of mining investment. We have chosen to start from the labour issue to determine how these investments are negotiated and managed, and what the consequences are," says Benjamin Rubbers. The background is the hypothesis that companies developing new industrial and mining projects do not break with the paternalism practiced during the colonial and post-colonial era when the sector was dominated by state-owned companies such as Gécamines in Congo and Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines in Zambia. It therefore follows that these new actors need to adapt their managerial models to local constraints on the one hand, and to position themselves as civic entities on a national and global scale on the other.

The work issue is also interesting because it has links with various disciplines such as sociology, but also history and political science. The WorkinMining project thus brings together an interdisciplinary team with three anthropologists, a sociologist, a post-doctoral development specialist and a political scientist. "This shows an openness and a certain dialogue between disciplines (sociology/anthropology), but also between the themes (work, immigration, family, kinship) that are all brought together in this project," concludes the researcher.

ERC Consolidator Grants

ERC Grants are major instruments deployed by the European Research Council to fund research projects in Europe. The procedure, which is extremely selective, selects only the best researchers and very high-level research projects, combining boldness and competence to tackle new research avenues that, if successful, could substantially enrich knowledge.
There are 5 types of grants: Starting Grants, Consolidator Grants, Advanced Grants, Synergy Grants and Proof of Concept

ERC Consolidator grants are designed to help researchers who wish to establish their research team and continue to develop a career in Europe. The program supports newly created independent research teams that excel in a specific area.

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