Monitoring Marange: human rights surveillance, the Kimberley Process, and Zimbabwe’s blood diamonds

This thesis examines the Kimberly Process (KP), a joint government, industry, and civil society initiative that launched a certification scheme in 2003 to stem the flow of ‘conflict diamonds’. It traces its origins and early years and focuses on its later involvement in the politics around Zimbabwe’s Marange diamond fields, where it entered into the terrain of human rights. Marange is used as a case study to explore a particular conception of power as it relates to the pursuit of human rights by local and international institutions. I use the debate around Stephen Hopgood’s The Endtimes of Human Rights, specifically his argument that we are seeing the beginnings of a transnational rejection of international human rights law and the global institutions imposing it from above, as a springboard for an argument that we need to go beyond his top-down, legal-institutional emphasis if we are to explain the workings of human rights at Marange. I argue instead for a conception of disciplinary power that draws on Michel Foucault’s work.

The thesis offers a new perspective that focuses on how disciplinary power was exercised through the KP, and the surprising ways in which it came to bear on human rights. I describe the KP as a ‘monitoring assemblage’ that developed out of the diamond cartel, and rendered industry and state actors more visible as objects of knowledge, thereby disciplining them along norms promoted in the language the KP used to give meaning to its monitoring practices. This language was initially one of ‘formalisation’, of heightened state regulation with industry cooperation. Yet, the meaning given to the growing corpus of knowledge produced through the assemblage was changeable. This proved to be the case when there was a shift in the KP’s founding ‘strategic alignment’, that is, the field of actors that first sought to constitute the monitoring assemblage by interacting and enabling each other through the common usage of a monitoring language.

In making this case, I deploy a close reading of key texts, understood as forms of knowledge production that shaped disciplinary power, that were constructed by KP actors and their interlocutors for a range of public and private audiences. I argue that Marange precipitated a shift in the KP’s founding strategic alignment, which brought about a human rights turn at the KP, partially subsuming its assemblage into the much vaster monitoring assemblage of the global human rights ‘ecosystem’, and giving rise to a new human rights language and knowledge production through the KP that disciplined the Zimbabwean state’s behaviour in and around Marange. This outcome reflected forms of power that did not operate solely in top-down ways, through legal-institutional channels, or indeed for the sake of human rights norms. It represented acts of disciplining and self-disciplining that responded to ways in which knowledge and effective monitoring interacted with wider pressures and goals, including those of an ailing diamond cartel, rising international NGOs, Hollywood filmmakers, predatory Zimbabwean elite state actors, imperilled local Zimbabwean civil society actors, and a US-led western government push for Zimbabwean regime change.

Researchers
James Simpson
Research Student
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