Lindsay Bell Grubb

Grant Type

Post PhD Research Grant

Institutional Affiliation

University of Western Ontario

Grant number

Gr. 9485

Approve Date

April 27, 2017

Project Title

Bell, Dr. Lindsay A., State U. of Western Ontario, Canada - To aid research on 'Transparency: An Ethnography of a Global Social Value'

Preliminary abstract: In the first decade of this century, diamonds and other conflict-laden gemstones spearheaded a global trend toward transparency. Despite the growing pervasiveness of transparency in business strategies and political discourses across the political and economic spectrum, it remains a theoretically nebulous and ethnographically elusive category that occludes more than it purports to reveal. Rather than assuming that the category of transparency is itself transparent, this research interrogates the technological practices, material qualities, linguistic interactions, and institutional standards which produce transparency in the diamond sector. The project links my ongoing anthropological research on diamond harvesting and corporate ethics in Canada’s arctic to an examination of the enactment of corporate ethics of transparency on a broader scale. To explore how diamonds’ transparency is constituted in the interconnections between people, institutions, words and things, I will conduct an ethnographic study of the organizations and individuals tasked with scientifically analyzing, identifying, certifying and auditing transparent minerals. Working alongside mineral appraisers, evaluators and traders, I will identify how people in the gemstone industry learn to evaluate and standardize transparent stones, companies, and producing countries. Using the case of diamonds as exemplary of how processes of transparency emerged as a global social value, this project will further an understanding of the political instrumentality and social relevance of transparency across legal regimes and economic sectors. The proposed research contributes to contemporary anthropological debates on the enmeshment of the linguistic and the material, audit cultures and bureaucracy, enactments of corporate ethics, and the cultural and political nature of resource extraction.