Imaginative Technologies of Land and Race: Racial Capitalisms and African Investment

Authors: Alicia Lazzarini*, London School of Economics & Political Science
Topics: Development, Ethnicity and Race, Africa
Keywords: Investment, land, race, racial capitalism, Africa
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 31
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper explores two examples of land and resource ‘rushes’ in Mozambique. In Africa, land rushes depend on imagining this resource as available for European investment. The trope of African resource frontiers is a worn colonial-racial narrative, of African underdevelopment requiring white experts and capital to make land profitable. Yet, even the most critical scholarship often fails to address the explicitly racial nature of these fictions of resource availability and the imaginative technologies that promote them. Resource and land ‘grab’ scholars, often working in Global South-centered critical development and agrarian studies, have written extensively of global interest in particularly African land. Such scholars especially engage questions of primitive accumulation but almost none deploy explicitly racial approaches to these phenomena. Meanwhile, racial capitalisms and Black geographies scholarships figure land, race, and history as central to understanding settler colonial presents, but remain largely rooted in Global North contexts (McKittrick, 2011; Wolfe, 2017). This paper makes two interventions. First, I argue that critical scholarship on land and colonial present(s) must ask how fictions of investability are produced through racial imaginative technologies. Second, I bring an explicitly racial capitalist approach to questions of contemporary investment, resource rushes, and uneven development in African context, examining how racial imaginative technologies render land investable. I compare South African agroindustrial re-investment and East Asian infrastructure investment projects in Mozambique. These cases demonstrate the need to return racial capitalist approaches to African and international contexts (Al-Bulushi, 2020; Robinson, 1983;), and account for differently globally situated and changing racial contours.

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