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22 February 2022 16:00-17:00
Christ Church Library, Upper Floor

Contestations in Land and Agriculture: Historical and Geopolitical Case-Studies (Seminar 2)

The Laudato Si' Research Institute and the McDonald Centre are jointly hosting a seminar series analysing contemporary and historic land contestations from the perspective of political philosophy, theology, ethics, and international development.

Seminar 2 - with Professor Nikita Sud

Title: Adversariality and the 'Unfixity' of Land in the Gujarat Special Economic Zone

Speaker: Professor Nikita Sud, International Development, University of Oxford

Driven by the flexibility of global capital, India’s largest privately-owned Special Economic Zone (SEZ) has constantly changed shape, name, and purpose. It has grown from 3000 acres to over 32,000 hectares since India started liberalising its economy in the early 1990s. What was once a salt manufacturing facility by the Arabian Sea is now set to be a vast wind and solar farm, and copper refinery that services emerging green technology. Capital, and a business-friendly state have shaped the land on which this mega infrastructure zone stands. They have ‘produced nature’ as an influential literature tells us. Yet, how does nature co-produce us, and our institutions? Building on inter-disciplinary work on dynamic human-nature relationships, I argue that the material, regulatory, cartographic, and classificatory flexibility of ‘unfixed land’ underlies the contortions of the Gujarat SEZ.

The multiplicity of land also informs political adversariality towards the Zone. Over 2.5 decades, a heterogeneous group of salt workers, farmers, fishworkers, pastoralists, and local to global NGOs have contested the takeover of their lands along registers of history and memory, access, use, property, environmental sustainability, and more. As we have ‘made’ the land in pursuit of our growth and development agendas, the land has also ‘made’ us, informing the actions of our states, markets, and as this talk highlights: our politics. The many lives of land, and of the many actors laying claim to it, are somewhat ordered through the coercions, mediations, and compromises of everyday and Party politics. Politics temporarily and imperfectly settles the making, distribution and use of unfixed land.

This talk pushes against inert views of nature that has been moulded by human agency. As the climate crisis lays bare, we have been and will continue to be fundamentally altered by nature, and our actions on it.

To attend, please RSVP to: