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Abstract

I combine fieldwork photography and ethnographic documentation of gold mining in Madre de Dios, Peru, to examine the localized material, social, environmental, and health outcomes of the global gold boom. This 'theoretical photo essay’ examines how local and global forces coalesce around gold mining and influence peoples and environments in Western Amazonia. I use embodiment theory in anthropology, ecological economics, and theories of underdevelopment to understand local consequences of the global gold trade and to elucidate how opulence and the machinations of capital accumulation in economic centers of the world occur at the expense of human lives and environments in the hinterlands. Building on this analysis, I draw upon the Marxian concepts of mystification and fetishization to show how the rationale and language invoked in discourses about the gold boom in Madre de Dios work to obscure interconnections between the devastating local consequences of the global gold trade and the unequal economic global system of exchange that unevenly distributes profits and risks.