Races, Rushes and the “Last Frontiers”:
examining stories of appetite and closure in Africa and the Arctic

Recent press and scholarly interest has examined large-scale land acquisitions in Africa as a new enclosure movement, a speculative land rush, a virtual water grab, a strategy for (foreign) food security, or an agricultural modernization development strategy, among other angles. The “new scramble” for African land, with its frontier mentality, speculative “rush”, terra nullius justifications, and underlying discourse about global limits and scarcity has some resemblance to what is happening in the press around the Arctic. In the “new scramble” for the Arctic, melting ice is giving way to a surge of cartographic glee about racing to reach new resources. This paper compares the discourses and developments around the “rush for the Arctic” and the “new scramble for Africa” to see what examining each in light of the other can contribute to our understanding of how financialization and foreign investment under imaginaries of scarcity create new ecologies. This incorporated comparison examines how the concept of development is utilized in both these discourses, and what the differences can teach us about how development is conceptualized in an era where the developed-ness of the north may be under erosion.

(unpublished paper)

See also: Poster: Agricultural land leases in Ethiopia: a case study in narrative spread