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Jesse Jonkman to Canadian university with Rubicon grant

4 October 2021
Anthropologist Jesse Jonkman of VU Amsterdam has received a Rubicon grant from NWO (Dutch Research Council). This grant will enable Jonkman to spend 24 months researching at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, Canada.

Jonkman will use the grant to investigate how Canadian corporations and Colombian small-scale miners work with and against each other while searching for gold. In more and more places in the world tensions between mining companies and local communities are running high.

Jonkman obtained his PhD cum laude at VU Amsterdam at the beginning of this year. His PhD research focused on the social and political organisation of small-scale miners in Colombia. "Such mining is mostly informal and takes place in regions that are often portrayed as lawless and unorganised," Jonkman explains. He wanted to show how miners organise themselves and use the law in their everyday lives.

Jonkman spent 13 months in Colombia for fieldwork. Jonkman: "I hung around in mines, participated in small-scale mining, held conversations with miners. Some forms of such mining are highly controversial and are identified as ‘criminal’ by the national government. Police operations often take place and miners are arrested. As such, it was sometimes difficult to gain people’s trust. Long-term anthropological fieldwork was helpful."

In the coming period, Jonkman will focus on large-scale mining. "In Colombia, there has always been a lot of small-scale mining. In recent decades, large companies have become involved, from Canada for example. This leads to tensions and conflicts with local communities. I want to investigate how local miners relate to these large companies, how they continue to do their work and how such work is being influenced and hampered by the companies."

With the Rubicon funding, Jonkman will go to the University of New Brunswick, where he will join a research group with expertise on this topic. In addition, he will again carry out fieldwork in Colombia. "I am looking forward to working and exchanging knowledge with the scientists at the University of New Brunswick. I am very happy with the opportunity to have two years of freedom to work on my research."

24 recently promoted researchers will experience working at institutions abroad with a Rubicon funding from NWO. Rubicon funding allows researchers to spend up to 24 months at a foreign research institution. The Rubicon programme is intended to allow young, promising scientists to gain international research experience.