Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationTexas, Austin, U. of
Grant numberGr. 10040
Approve DateAugust 26, 2020
Project TitleYousfi, Kenza (Texas, Austin, U. of) "Along the Conveyor Belt: Phosphates Extraction, Walls, and Infrastructure in the Western Sahara"
KENZA YOUSFI, then a graduate student at University of Texas, Austin, Texas, was awarded a grant in June 2020 to aid research on “Along the Conveyor Belt: Phosphates Extraction, Walls, and Infrastructure in the Western Sahara,” supervised by Dr. Jason Cons. The world’s longest conveyor belt transporting phosphates has shaped the long history of national liberation and insurgency in the Western Sahara. This project investigates the extractive assemblage of vital phosphates infrastructure, labor policies, and colonial environmental imaginations. This archival research situates contemporary ethnographic exploration of how Saharawis relate and make phosphates infrastructure a site of everyday hangout, insurgency, and political rebellion. From archival materials collected from various Spanish archives from 1940-1976, the project traced the colonial tension around the impossibility of mastering an infrastructure erected in a moving desert landscape. The failed colonial attempts to deploy scientific, technical, and military measures to fixate the extractive infrastructure into the landscape led to precise territorial control, relationships with indigenous communities, and connection between land and sea. These projects shaped the living conditions, labor practices, and movements of the people working toward extracting and transporting phosphates. Saharawis lived, labored, and moved in this extractive assemblage through three intimately linked sites: the mining site, the port, and the conveyor belt. These sites shaped not only the colonial resource profitability but also the Saharawi insurgency’s political discourse. The extractive assemblage traced from a historical lens demonstrates that liberation movements were not merely a domino effect but shaped as much by material realities that often culminated around infrastructure.