Off Cratons, Cuts, and Cutures:
Diamonds in the Western Imaginary and the Diminishment of African Cultural Opportunities
Just about everyone who lives in the U.S. has been exposed to a DeBeers ad. A diamond is forever, is how it goes in this particular marketing campaign, the most successful ever conducted (Hart: 2001). Beautiful American couples express their undying love through a truly astounding crystal.
But this crystal, like Africa, has a history. So does its value, which is not intrinsic but culturally prescribed and subscribed to. This is a history continuing to be told, but perhaps told badly, without the legacy of influences and intents that have generated the current moment. Recounting this history shows how Africa and one of its most marketable resources have become entangled in the values of a cultural polyglot of political economies, and the image of the African suffers in its wake. A diminished ability to claim political representation for many African peoples, and a reduced place of participation in the world economies for African nations and Africa as a global entity is the result.
As the image of a "chaotic" Africa persists in the historical moment to de-legitimize it as viable agent in global political economies, divorced of its historical circumstances and left to the whim of market forces and subordinating cultural practices, more and more African peoples come to utilizing force and violence in an effort to attain their participation, perpetuating this tragic image. Diamonds, as a product of Western aesthetic values, through the circumstances of history and geology, becomes an ideal medium for this perpetuation.
This is an examination of the history of diamonds and their valuation, drawn in tandem with a tracing of African cultural change in the colonial and post-colonial moments. I hope to reveal how deeply interlinked the driving...