Land Technologies: Tools of Governance in the Colonial Present, III

Type: Virtual Panel
Sponsor Groups: Socialist and Critical Geography Specialty Group, Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group
Organizers: Levi Van Sant


Leftists insist that climate change, growing inequality, and right-wing populism are related crises produced by capitalism's inherent contradictions. Yet development institutions and state agencies continue to promote technical and bureaucratic solutions that feed capitalist accumulation and colonial relations. This is especially apparent in the case of resource extraction, as new biological and digital technologies promise to address global crises but generally serve to delay, shift, or otherwise reproduce them. Our session revisits one of critical geography's central concerns – the politics of land – in this context. This session links foundational work on capital accumulation and social difference (eg. Smith 1984, Woods 1998, Gilmore 2007, Gidwani 2008) with studies of contemporary technological apparatuses that shape land politics (Li 2014). Recent work in political economy has focused on the "global land grabs" of the early 21st century (Borras et al. 2011), with particular attention to the ways that land is rendered investable (Goldstein and Yates 2017) and financialized (Fairbairn 2020). This session broadens the scope of inquiry beyond investment to include all dimensions of land governance. We conceptualize "technologies" broadly, drawing on a range of case studies into new biological, cartographic, financial, legal, and digital tools. We ask: How do these technical interventions re-articulate past relationships, and how do they touch down in particular places? How do emerging techniques of land governance reproduce (settler) colonial relations (Asher 2009, Estes 2019)? How do they recode "whiteness as property" (Harris 1993) in systems of land valuation? Are new strategies of resistance emerging to counter new technologies of land governance, and which show the most promise to counter the violent logics of colonial and capitalist land governance?

Asher, K. (2009) Black and Green: Afro-Colombians, Development, and Nature in the Pacific Lowlands. Duke University Press, Durham, NC.

Borras Jr., Saturnino M., Ruth Hall, Ian Scoones, Ben White & Wendy Wolford (2011) Towards a better understanding of global land grabbing: an editorial introduction, The Journal of Peasant Studies, 38:2, 209-216.

Estes, N. (2019) Our History Is the Future: Standing Rock Versus the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Long Tradition of Indigenous Resistance. Verso: New York.

Fairbairn, M. (2020) Fields of Gold: Financing the Global Land Rush. Cornell University Press, Ithaca.

Gidwani, V. (2008) Capital Interrupted: Agrarian Development and the Politics of Work in India. University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis.

Gilmore, R.W. (2007) Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California. University of California Press: Berkeley.

Goldstein, J. and Julian Yates (2017) Introduction: Rendering land investable, Geoforum, 82, 209-211.

Harris, C. (1993) Whiteness as Property. Harvard Law Review, 106(8), 1707-1791.

Li, Tania M. (2014) What is land? Assembling a resource for global investment, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 39, 589-602.

Smith, N. (1984) Uneven Development: Nature, Capital and the Production of Space. Verso: New York.

Woods, C. (1998) Development Arrested: The Blues and Plantation Power in the Mississippi Delta. Verso Books: New York.


Type Details Minutes
Panelist Elizabeth Hennessy University of Wisconsin - Madison 12
Panelist Levi Van Sant George Mason University 12
Panelist Alexander Liebman Rutgers University 12
Panelist Jenny Goldstein Cornell University 12
Discussant Vinay Gidwani University of Minnesota 12

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