Race, Nature, and Accumulation: A Decolonial World-Ecological Analysis of Indian Land Grabbing in the Gambella Province of Ethiopia
Gill, Bikrum Singh
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This dissertation situates the post-crisis phenomenon of large-scale agricultural land acquisition, otherwise known as the global land grab, within the longue duree of the capitalist world-ecology. It does so by advancing a theoretical and historical framework, which I call the decolonial world-ecological agrarian question, that clarifies the key role played by the co-production of race and nature in provisioning the ecological surplus of cheap food that has historically secured the emergence and reproduction of capitalist development. This framework specifically foregrounds the racialized denial of indigenous human presence as the necessary condition of possibility for the reduction of the colonial frontier to a state of unused nature. While the racialized denial of the reproductive conditions of the colonial frontiers fertile soils ultimately exhausts the latters surplus provisioning capacity, the longue duree of the capitalist world-ecology has been marked by successive attempts to overcome such exhaustion by forging, through technologies of racialization, new frontiers of unused externalized natures. The key premise of this dissertation is that, in light of the food price crisis indexing the exhaustion of the accumulation capacity of the neoliberal epoch of the capitalist world-ecology, the global land grab constitutes another such attempted moment of re-securing the cheap food premise through racialized frontier appropriation. This dissertation highlights the distinctive South-South dimensions of the contemporary global land grab by taking as its empirical site of investigation the case of Indian land grabbing in the Gambella province of Ethiopia. The central argument advanced here is that, within the neoliberal crisis conjuncture, the hegemonic resolution of the agrarian question in the core national space of India calls forth, through the practice of global primitive accumulation, the racialized construction of frontiers of unused nature in an emergent African zone of appropriation. Specifically, the cheap food imperative of Indian capitalist development constructs the fertile soils and abundant waters of Gambella as unused natures hitherto wasted by the primitive practices of the indigenous Anywaa people. Indian state and capital thus simultaneously appropriate and erase the indigenous practice and knowledge which has been historically integral to the socio-ecological foundation of Gambellas natural abundance.