Queen's University

Diamonds are Forever: A Decolonizing, Feminist Approach to Diamond Mining in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories

photo of vertical banner "Yellowknife: Diamond capitol of North America"This dissertation examines the impact of the development of diamond mines in the Yellowknife region, Northwest Territories (NWT), asking two questions:

1. How has the diamond-mining regime affected the gendered social relations in the regional racialized mixed economy?
2. How can violence against Indigenous women living in the region be situated in the context of structural shifts in the mixed economy?

The analysis developed in response to these questions is informed by a theorization of the mixed economy as a dynamic set of social relations characterized by tension between the temporal imperatives of capitalist production and the place-based imperatives of subsistence.
Taking a decolonizing, feminist political economy (FPE) approach, this dissertation responded to these questions by drawing on documentary analysis, interviews, and talking circles to examine the often invisibilized labour performed by Indigenous women that reproduces the mixed economy. The central contention is that the diamond-mining regime represents a new imposition upon daily and intergenerational social reproduction performed by Indigenous women, an imposition that is sometimes violent, and that is met with resistance.
The dissertation unfolds in six substantive chapters. Building on a theoretical and historical grounding offered in chapters one and two, chapters three-five draw on field research to examine shifts in local relations of capitalist production, social reproduction, and subsistence production. The analysis reveals that the Fly-In-Fly-Out (FIFO) diamond-mining regime, itself a spatial articulation of the capitalist separation between (masculinized) capitalist production and (feminized) social reproduction, introduces, or, in some cases, intensifies a nuclear male-breadwinner/female-caregiver structure.

Woven through this analysis is an examination of the relationship between structural and embodied violence. Indeed, the structural shifts imposed by the diamond-mining regime characterized in this dissertation as structural violence contribute to Indigenous womens experiences of embodied violence in the Yellowknife region. At the same time, Indigenous women meet these shifts with decolonizing resistance in the form of the day-to-day labours they perform to reproduce the place-based social relations of the mixed economy. (Read More)