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Interview with Dr David Damtar: Turpin Junior Research Fellow in History

Dr David Damtar has been researching the relationships between mining industries in colonial Ghana and the local communities—specifically looking at ‘the colonial and postcolonial developmental divides in gold mining communities and how various actors contest access to mineral resource wealth.’

David was born in Ghana and has undertaken a lot of his research on gold mining in in Africa. He completed his MA in Applied and Interdisciplinary History at the Higher School of Economics in St Petersburg, Russia, and his DPhil in the University of Oxford’s School of Global and Area Studies. Speaking on the topic of his chosen subject, he shares:

‘I developed an interest in history at an early age. I started reading as much historical material as possible. I could see the gradual development of my interest in Modern History. Modern History is something that resonates with me. As a young boy going to school, history was a field in which I saw I could develop my career and to make it useful to my community With Ghana’s mining history even predating colonial intervention, I therefore decided to research topics that connect with such a history from MA to DPhil level’.

Research Interests

David’s research interests have evolved throughout his education. He explains this shift in his research interests:

‘At undergraduate level, my research was geared towards mining and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). At the time, multinational companies were starting to mine within the regions I have lived in Ghana. I saw at first-hand how some of these companies were assuming responsibilities regarding socio-economic and environmental wellbeing of the people within the communities they operate, and as part of responding to the challenges their operations bring upon them. I however felt I could add to my understanding about such recent developments by looking a bit more into the past when I entered the graduate school. I am now much more focused on the colonial and early postcolonial developmental divides in mining communities, their implications on inequality, and gender as a critical subject in mining. Currently, I am part of a team at Oxford’s African Studies Centre partnering with Ghana Gold Expo Foundation, state institutions and mining companies in Ghana to organise a workshop on mining CSR and community engagement later this year. I intend to use my historical research on gender in mining to contribute to the discussion about how companies can extract minerals in more sustainable ways.’

More recently, David’s research has focused on:

‘Mining communities’ effort to communicate their interests, and how various actors seek benefits as a way to problematise the issues of contestation. For instance, in Ghana, contestations in mining communities occurs at various levels and is expressed in covert and overt forms. While some scholars prefer to focus on major conflict zones in mining in Africa, my view is to look at it more holistically and to highlight marginalised voices.’

His research also explores ‘the ways in which women in mining communities navigate challenges caused by the mining industry. This encompasses how women who don’t find direct employment in the mines innovate various survival strategies and the forms in which they demonstrate financial independence.’

Turpin Junior Research Fellow at Oriel

At Oriel, David is the Turpin Junior Research fellow where he is continuing his research. He explains his experience in this role so far:

‘‘So far, it has been an interesting journey and a learning process for me. The Fellowship goes back a few years in Oriel, and has recently paid more attention to Black History. It is positioned to demonstrate inclusivity by considering research related to Black Communities such as African, Caribbean and African-American history – essentially Modern Black History. As a result, I think my research on mining in Africa fits within one of these categories and resonates with the goals of the fellowship. The fellowship shows diversity, and encourages the representation of the BAME community in academia. After my doctorate, this position is the first to create a space for me to share my research since my DPhil thesis wouldn’t be left to ‘collect dust’ on library shelves but instead, get broader dissemination in the form of journal articles and a book that is tuned to a wider readership.’’

Referring to the way that Oriel has supported his academic progress as a young researcher and supported his future academic career, he states:

‘Organising and leading tutorials with Undergraduates has been a good learning process, since it is my first experience in that role in Oxford. It broadens my ability to work beyond my own research but within the field of history. Although some of the courses are a little outside my area of specialty, it is an opportunity to broaden my academic horizons. This is because I cover subject areas that would in turn impact my future research positively. This position has helped me interact with students of Oxford over a wide range of topics in history and has, therefore, been a good learning opportunity where I can make impact on students’ academic development.’

EDI at Oriel

Oriel has worked on several initiatives to increase Diversity and Inclusion and to open up discussions around inclusivity. So far, we have established a variety of initiatives and worked with departments to enact the following scholarships and schemes:

You can read more about our EDI (Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion) work here.