When the Dust Unsettles: Modernism and Extractivism in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Innovation Fellowships




Since the first decades of the twentieth century, artists from Lubumbashi – the mining capital of the DRC – documented and challenged colonial mining practices and extractive logics. This dissertation focuses on four artists who worked between 1920 and today and whose diverse practices make visible local, alternative ways of relating to the landscape and its mineral abundance. As such, the project traces a materially grounded history of Lubumbashi artists’ engagements with their environment, both above and below ground, and the global economies that have extracted and exploited the region’s mineral riches. The intertwined art, environmental, and social histories of the mining region offer a new account of modernism in the Congo. By focusing on these artists’ representations of and engagements with the land, this dissertation makes visible the entanglements of modernity and extractivism and their perpetuation in the present day.