Farmland moves. Black Earth narratives, geopolitics and the symbolical dimensions of farmland investment

October 5th, 2016 from 11:30am to 1pm in EV1-354. Oane Visser (associate professor, International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), The Hague, the Netherlands)


Since the mid-2000s there has been a sharp rise in global investment in farmland, alternatively called the global land grab or land rush. Numerous studies have been conducted on the drivers and the implications of global farmland deals, but relatively little attention has been given to mechanisms through which (farm)land is turned into an investable asset. Due to land?s supposedly fixed nature, its very localized features, and the unpredictable effects of weather, plant diseases and other natural factors, it was long considered as an object not prone to financialisation. This lecture will look into how(farm)land is made into an investable asset, and the contradictions of this process. In particular it will look at how farmland is radically separated from its agro-climatical and social dimensions, in order to represent it as a one-dimensional object that is attractive for investors. It will draw theoretically on literature on financialisation, natural resource making and assemblages.

While earlier studies on farmland investment have stressed fixity as central feature of land a natural resource, I will complicate this notion. Drawing on empirical examples from contemporary farmland investment in the fertile black earth region of Eastern Europe (Russia, Ukraine, Romania), and examples from other settings through time and place), I will argue that farmland can be rather elastic, not at all lumpy and fixed, in the narratives – and occasionally practices – of farmland investors and other actors. Notions of farmland being taken away’ are expressed in relation to shifting national borders, imaginaries of physically moving the farmland, and references to actual historical practices of physical removal of topsoil away from localities or even across national borders. I contend that the process of making natural resources into financial assets cannot fully be understood without taking into account also the discursive, symbolic dimensions (and their historical antecedents). Only in such a way, we can obtain deeper insight in the interplay of economic, socio-cultural and geopolitical factors in global farmland deals.

Mark you calendars:

October 26, 2016, 11:30am to 1pm, EV1-354 – Helena Shilomboleni

The African Green Revolution and the Food Sovereignty movement: Sustainability Challenges for Meeting Food Security in Sub-Saharan Africa

November 9th, 2016, 11:30am to 1 pm, EV1-354 – Andrea Sosa

November 30th, 2016, 11:30am to 1pm, EV1-354 – Danshi Qi and Ning Dai