In the Realm of the Diamond King: Myth, Magic, and Modernity in the Diamond Tracts of Central India

Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt, Arnab Roy Chowdhury

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    From being "the cradle" of raw diamonds in the world in the eighteenth century, India has turned into an insignificant producer of rough diamonds today. Yet, even now, the indigenous Gonds mine diamonds artisanally in a remote location in central India, largely hidden away from public vision. This article presents an exposition of artisanal diamond mining in central India from the humanistic tradition in geography to illuminate the "realm" of the Gonds, where magic and social relations rule imaginaries of the diamonds in the particular place. It argues that the imaginations of diamonds and their mining by indigenous miners in Panna are shaped through the prism of their particular regional history, myth, geography, and culture. Without faith in the restrictive authority of science, capital, and state, and refusing domestication, the miners dig, smuggle, and spend for the savoir vivre. They remain dynamic and rely on traditional ideas of luck, masculinity, and success. They bind themselves to work and to each other in ways that preclude the possibility of amassing wealth and direct wealth in ways that reaffirm their dependence on the miner's life. The argument is illustrated through the story of protagonist Ramu, who proudly spends the earnings from his big diamond find. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in Panna, Madhya Pradesh State in central India, this article explores the magic of artisanal diamond mining, shows how place shapes such mining, and shows how informal mining shapes the context.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1620-1634pp
    JournalAnnals of the American Association of Geographers
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - 2018


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