Enacting the Corporation: An American Mining Firm in Post-Authoritarian Indonesia

Enacting the Corporation: An American Mining Firm in Post-Authoritarian Indonesia

Enacting the Corporation: An American Mining Firm in Post-Authoritarian Indonesia

Enacting the Corporation: An American Mining Firm in Post-Authoritarian Indonesia

Synopsis

What are corporations, and to whom are they responsible? Anthropologist Marina Welker draws on two years of research at Newmont Mining Corporation's Denver headquarters and its Batu Hijau copper and gold mine in Sumbawa, Indonesia, to address these questions. Against the backdrop of an emerging Corporate Social Responsibility movement and changing state dynamics in Indonesia, she shows how people enact the mining corporation in multiple ways: as an ore producer, employer, patron, promoter of sustainable development, religious sponsor, auditable organization, foreign imperialist, and environmental threat. Rather than assuming that corporations are monolithic, profit-maximizing subjects, Welker turns to anthropological theories of personhood to develop an analytic model of the corporation as an unstable collective subject with multiple authors, boundaries, and interests. Enacting the Corporation demonstrates that corporations are constituted through continuous struggles over relations with--and responsibilities to--local communities, workers, activists, governments, contractors, and shareholders.

Excerpt

What is a corporation? What does it do? To whom is it responsible? This book, a study of the Denver-based Newmont Mining Corporation and its Batu Hijau Copper and Gold Mine in Sumbawa, Indonesia, shows that each of these questions can be answered in multiple ways. Newmont does many things. These include mining ore; employing workers; expelling waste; building mosques, schools, and clinics; and gathering intelligence on environmental activists and Muslims. in popular, activist, and scholarly accounts, publicly traded corporations like Newmont often figure as actors single-mindedly seeking to maximize profits for shareholders, which is seen as their overarching, legally determined responsibility (Achbar and Abbott 2003; Fortun 2001:104). Without denying profit as a motivation, in this book I show that people enact corporations in multiple ways, and that these enactments involve struggles over the boundaries, interests, and responsibilities of the corporation.

The figure of the corporation as an actor with prior interests that govern and explain its actions is an important orienting device, but it rests on a model of the human subject—the natural, fully realized, discrete, unfettered, self-present, and self-knowing liberal individual—that anthropologists largely reject. Close cousin to this “abstract, rather contentless, entity in social space” (Meyer and Jepperson 2000:109) is the Homo economicus of rational choice theory. Both lack the complexity and contradiction constitutive of human subjectivity within our discipline.

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