the cedar ledge

‘The Data Is Gold, And We Are The gold-diggers': Whiteness, Race And Contemporary Academic Research In Eastern DRC

Date: January 12 2021

Summary: How data mining in African countries is a type of neocolonialism

Keywords: ##bibliography #race #whiteness #africa #data #gold #archive


G. Marchais, P. Bazuzi, and A. Amani Lameke, "‘The Data Is Gold, And We Are The gold-diggers': Whiteness, Race And Contemporary Academic Research In Eastern DRC," Critical African Studies, vol. 12, no. 3, pp. 372–394, Sep. 2020, doi: 10.1080/21681392.2020.1724806.

Table of Contents

    1. Background
      1. Review Process
      2. Research Projects Are a Lucrative Business
      3. Accidental Whiteness
  1. How To Cite
  2. References
  3. Discussion:


Review Process

First stage, a white European male's reflection on academic research in DRC and setting up Marakuja Kive Research group. Second stage, two Congolese researchers and Marakuja Kive Research founders review ideas in initial draft.

Retreating to safety founded on racial inequality creates a resource for researchers to access - consciously or not. This is often hard to identify due to delicacy of research endeavors. In Africa, is race colonial legacy or a resource for projects actively relied on, or both?

Research Projects Are a Lucrative Business

International research projects are beginning to much more resemble supply chains [1]

Increased demands for data in research enabled businesses based on multi-actor business models and knowledge value chains to exist [2] Quantitative research is closer to the big data sector. [3]

Three main groups of people enable the collection of data.

  1. Western, generally white researchers control project resources; namely funding.

  2. Non-Western associates: their work is usually hidden from outputs [4], [5]

  3. Subjects who are generally from lower socio-economic positioning.

THOUGHTS: Point 1 reminds me of the Communist Manifesto by Marx on those that control the means of production.

Data derives its value from its rawness at extraction and via processing. International academic pipeline construction is analogous to generic resource mining:

  1. African data is collected

  2. Exported

  3. Processed

  4. Converted to high value goods (papers, reports, etc.)

This mirrors very closely how international academic endeavors can look like a supply chain.

Accidental Whiteness

White academics incidentally separate to give themselves a sense of racial inapplicability [6], [7]

How To Cite

Zelko, Jacob. ‘The Data Is Gold, And We Are The gold-diggers': Whiteness, Race And Contemporary Academic Research In Eastern DRC. January 12 2021.


[1] D. Desai and R. Tapscott, “Tomayto tomahto: The research supply chain and the ethics of knowledge production,” Humanity J. Online, 2004.

[2] F. Bédécarrats, I. Guérin, and F. Roubaud, “All that glitters is not gold. The political economy of randomized evaluations in development,” Dev. Change, vol. 50, no. 3, pp. 735–762, 2019.

[3] L. Mann, “Left to other peoples’ devices? A political economy perspective on the big data revolution in development,” Dev. Change, vol. 49, no. 1, pp. 3–36, 2018.

[4] T. Middleton and E. Pradhan, “Dynamic duos: On partnership and the possibilities of postcolonial ethnography,” Ethnography, vol. 15, no. 3, pp. 355–374, 2014.

[5] S. A. Jenkins, “Assistants, guides, collaborators, friends: The concealed figures of conflict research,” J. Contemp. Ethnogr., vol. 47, no. 2, pp. 143–170, 2018.

[6] S. Sullivan, Revealing whiteness: The unconscious habits of racial privilege. Indiana University Press, 2006.

[7] C. Mills, “White ignorance,” Race Epistemol. Ignorance, vol. 247, pp. 26–31, 2007.


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