Working Paper 54

Sharing and Sustaining: the thrusts of friendship among young artisanal gold miners in northern Benin (West Africa)

Tilo Grätz

Abteilung ‚Integration und Konflikt’

Jahr der Veröffentlichung


Working Paper 54

The article deals with friendship relations among male artisanal gold miners in West Africa, exemplified by case studies from Northern Benin. I will argue that friendship is an important element in understanding the social configurations in the mining region. In the new social environment, immigrants develop new ties among themselves and to the local societies and/or transfer social bonds into a new context. I will explore the general logics of friendship bonds in that area and discuss their integrative strength as well as their limits. In the context of gold mining, above all logics of economic as well as social risk minimisation incline many migrants to create friendship bonds. Parity in income sharing is more likely to be established among friends than among kinsmen. Friendship is specifically relevant to integrate people of very different regional, ethnic and social backgrounds. Despite the many divergent interests between different economic actors, locals and immigrants, there are multiple bonds which ease tensions and give rise to different levels of social integration.

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