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Indonesia: Spectacles of Small-scale Gold Mining


This exhibit, “Indonesia: Spectacles of Small-scale Gold Mining,” consists of photos taken in the West Kalimantan region of Indonesian Borneo by UC Berkeley’s Professor Nancy Lee Peluso. Peluso has researched smallholders, workers, and land transformations in Indonesia for more than 35 years. Peluso’s photographs, taken in the course of her ethnographic fieldwork, focus on miners’ labor and lives, their working landscapes, and their life-or-death dependence on each other.

The small-scale miners and workers represented in this exhibit have been dispossessed of their land and livelihoods by corporate agriculture and national development projects. This leaves smallholders few options; many choose to seek their fortunes in and around the gold they believe lives everywhere beneath the surface. Most families have at least one member engaged in the informal small-scale mining economy. Mining corporations may take over someday; the bauxite behemoths are already there. For the last 30 years, however, the making of these extractive landscapes is largely driven and carried out by informal investors, individual prospectors, and small and medium sized crews of workers: diggers, sprayers, gleaners, panners, contract laborers, and crew bosses.