Against Colonization and Rural Dispossession: Local Resistance in South & East Asia, the Pacific & Africa

Against Colonization and Rural Dispossession: Local Resistance in South & East Asia, the Pacific... This is an empirically rich and theoretically stimulating collection of essays on the long-term and ongoing practices and forms of rural resistance to capitalist-driven and state-enforced land enclosures in the Global South (the chapter on the Waponhaki anti-colonial resistance in North America is the only exception). Written by a variety of scholars and activists, the collection documents the emergence of heterogeneous and multifarious social and political struggles that are redesigning a new geography of contentious politics articulated by peasants, artisanal mining communities, indigenous people, fishermen, and other subaltern social classes. With case studies ranging from the Philippines, Indonesia, and India to Nigeria, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Ghana, and others, the book explores and discusses the repertoires of resistance that subaltern classes have historically devised in order to respond to and counter attempts by superordinate classes and states to extract value in the form of land, labour, food, taxes, rents, and so forth. Peasant and indigenous people’s struggles do not feature on the front pages of newspapers as they are often localized, fragmented and predominately defensive in nature. Yet there is a growing literature documenting the ways in which rural social struggles and resistance are challenging the agro-extractive logic of capitalist accumulation that is shaping capitalist development and agrarian change in a context of growing authoritarian populism and neoliberal modernization. As the authors in the collection make clear, the current wave of rural resistance is neither uniform nor does it emerge in a vacuum. It is rather the result of cumulative, context- and culture-specific, historically framed, practices and discourses that bind people in social and ecological relations that regulate their access to and use of land. This wave of rural contestations, whose emergence coincided with the acceleration of extractive and exploitative trends by corporate agribusiness and mining capital, mirrors the resurgence of rural social movement mobilizations in the 2000s in response to the nefarious implications of structural adjustments plans and neoliberal agricultural restructuring which involved, among other things, agricultural trade liberalization, the privatization and titling of land and the creation of land markets. The analysis of rural movements is furthermore significant as practices of rural contestation from below, whether of low- or high-intensity, hidden or open, often fall outside the gaze of the engaged researcher because state (and capital) violence and repression make their observation increasingly problematic and grounded fieldwork perilous. Theoretically, the book explores a fertile intellectual terrain situated at the intersection of Marxist, anti-colonial and subaltern scholarship. It combines historically grounded analysis of the dynamics of capitalist development and its interconnection with the reproduction of the colonial structures of power and domination, with place- and context-specific studies about the ways in which colonial subjects and subaltern people challenge and resist dispossessing and exploitative dynamics of historical colonial (racial) capitalism. The chapters in the book firmly situate the phenomenon of land dispossession and enclosure in the dynamics of the longue durée of capital accumulation and the experiences of military, ideological, and discursive violence and coercion under colonialism. The collection of essays represents a useful corrective/contribution to gaps and analytical failures in a substantial part of the literature on agrarian studies by addressing the elements of continuity that link the current wave of large-scale land enclosures to theft, land dispossession, enclosure and looting in the colonial period. Much of the recent literature has in fact adopted an epiphenomenal and ahistorical interpretation of land dispossession often neglecting the historical dynamics of capital accumulation and state governance in land matters, and the persistence of this colonial matrix of power and wealth in the post-independence experience of many African and Asian states. As the introductory chapter in the collections makes clear, land dispossession ‘is neither a novel nor a break from the historical colonial capitalist project in these regions’, (p.3) and primitive accumulation or accumulation by dispossession are persistent and ongoing features of capitalist accumulation not simply restricted to the prehistory of capital. In doing so the contributors point to significant similarities and continuities between the colonial and development (or globalization) project. For the authors, the colonial capitalist nexus of dispossession and domination persists in the post-colonial period through structures of power that link state-corporate actors, comprador bourgeois classes and racialized social groups and classes within states and regions, reproducing the colonial structures of inequality and project of subjugation through development projects, market violence, land theft, looting of natural resources, exploitation and cultural assault. Dispossession here does not merely refer to the deprivation of an economic asset; it also refers to the eradication of pre-existing modes of organization of land-based social relations and associated customary land-tenure systems. The concept of meta-dispossession advanced in the collection is meant to capture also the non-material and non-economic aspects of dispossession including the destruction of existing cosmologies, narratives and world-views that had provided people with interpretive frameworks throughout their history. To put it differently, the book touches upon the question of cultural imperialism inscribed in the practices of land dispossession, which, as Palestinian literary critic Edward Said would say, did not simply come with soldiers but with new ways of seeing and framing ‘the other’ which enabled the imposition of institutions and customs upon indigenous narratives. The violence the authors refer to can be defined as epistemic, to quote Gayatri Spivak (1988), dehumanizing and annihilating pre-existing modes of understanding and thinking of indigenous people. The emergence of resistance is in part explained by the fact that subaltern groups are those mostly affected by the dispossessing and exploitative effects of capitalist colonial dispossession and are therefore at the forefront of struggles against primitive accumulation or accumulation by dispossession. The praxis of resistance represents in many ways an attempt to come to terms with the legacy and fractures of colonial capital structures of power and wealth inequality inscribed in the (post)colonial project and propose alternative paths and views of development to the mainstream western-centric orthodoxies. The book is also an attempt to decolonize methodologies of social enquiry as Linda Tuhiwai Smith (1999) put it. It offers an epistemological alternative to conventional ways in which the problem of rural dispossession is framed as a research problematique. The cumulative (and laudable) effect of the findings and arguments of the different chapters in the book is that of re-establishing the centrality of agrarian and rural struggles in the political economy of capitalist development, often silenced in the euro-centric, totalizing and teleological narratives of development. Simultaneously, they expose the development projects to critiques and challenges from below allowing for the crafting of new spaces of the ‘political’ in which to rethink alternatives to the status quo. References Spivak, G. C. ( 1988) Can the subaltern speak? in Nelson C. and Grossberg L., eds, Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture , Macmillan Education, Basingstoke, pp. 271– 313. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Tuhiwai-Smith, L. ( 1999) Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous People , Zed Books, London and New York. © Oxford University Press and Community Development Journal. 2018 All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices) http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Community Development Journal Oxford University Press

Against Colonization and Rural Dispossession: Local Resistance in South & East Asia, the Pacific & Africa

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Publisher
Oxford University Press
Copyright
© Oxford University Press and Community Development Journal. 2018 All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com
ISSN
0010-3802
eISSN
1468-2656
D.O.I.
10.1093/cdj/bsy012
Publisher site
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Abstract

This is an empirically rich and theoretically stimulating collection of essays on the long-term and ongoing practices and forms of rural resistance to capitalist-driven and state-enforced land enclosures in the Global South (the chapter on the Waponhaki anti-colonial resistance in North America is the only exception). Written by a variety of scholars and activists, the collection documents the emergence of heterogeneous and multifarious social and political struggles that are redesigning a new geography of contentious politics articulated by peasants, artisanal mining communities, indigenous people, fishermen, and other subaltern social classes. With case studies ranging from the Philippines, Indonesia, and India to Nigeria, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Ghana, and others, the book explores and discusses the repertoires of resistance that subaltern classes have historically devised in order to respond to and counter attempts by superordinate classes and states to extract value in the form of land, labour, food, taxes, rents, and so forth. Peasant and indigenous people’s struggles do not feature on the front pages of newspapers as they are often localized, fragmented and predominately defensive in nature. Yet there is a growing literature documenting the ways in which rural social struggles and resistance are challenging the agro-extractive logic of capitalist accumulation that is shaping capitalist development and agrarian change in a context of growing authoritarian populism and neoliberal modernization. As the authors in the collection make clear, the current wave of rural resistance is neither uniform nor does it emerge in a vacuum. It is rather the result of cumulative, context- and culture-specific, historically framed, practices and discourses that bind people in social and ecological relations that regulate their access to and use of land. This wave of rural contestations, whose emergence coincided with the acceleration of extractive and exploitative trends by corporate agribusiness and mining capital, mirrors the resurgence of rural social movement mobilizations in the 2000s in response to the nefarious implications of structural adjustments plans and neoliberal agricultural restructuring which involved, among other things, agricultural trade liberalization, the privatization and titling of land and the creation of land markets. The analysis of rural movements is furthermore significant as practices of rural contestation from below, whether of low- or high-intensity, hidden or open, often fall outside the gaze of the engaged researcher because state (and capital) violence and repression make their observation increasingly problematic and grounded fieldwork perilous. Theoretically, the book explores a fertile intellectual terrain situated at the intersection of Marxist, anti-colonial and subaltern scholarship. It combines historically grounded analysis of the dynamics of capitalist development and its interconnection with the reproduction of the colonial structures of power and domination, with place- and context-specific studies about the ways in which colonial subjects and subaltern people challenge and resist dispossessing and exploitative dynamics of historical colonial (racial) capitalism. The chapters in the book firmly situate the phenomenon of land dispossession and enclosure in the dynamics of the longue durée of capital accumulation and the experiences of military, ideological, and discursive violence and coercion under colonialism. The collection of essays represents a useful corrective/contribution to gaps and analytical failures in a substantial part of the literature on agrarian studies by addressing the elements of continuity that link the current wave of large-scale land enclosures to theft, land dispossession, enclosure and looting in the colonial period. Much of the recent literature has in fact adopted an epiphenomenal and ahistorical interpretation of land dispossession often neglecting the historical dynamics of capital accumulation and state governance in land matters, and the persistence of this colonial matrix of power and wealth in the post-independence experience of many African and Asian states. As the introductory chapter in the collections makes clear, land dispossession ‘is neither a novel nor a break from the historical colonial capitalist project in these regions’, (p.3) and primitive accumulation or accumulation by dispossession are persistent and ongoing features of capitalist accumulation not simply restricted to the prehistory of capital. In doing so the contributors point to significant similarities and continuities between the colonial and development (or globalization) project. For the authors, the colonial capitalist nexus of dispossession and domination persists in the post-colonial period through structures of power that link state-corporate actors, comprador bourgeois classes and racialized social groups and classes within states and regions, reproducing the colonial structures of inequality and project of subjugation through development projects, market violence, land theft, looting of natural resources, exploitation and cultural assault. Dispossession here does not merely refer to the deprivation of an economic asset; it also refers to the eradication of pre-existing modes of organization of land-based social relations and associated customary land-tenure systems. The concept of meta-dispossession advanced in the collection is meant to capture also the non-material and non-economic aspects of dispossession including the destruction of existing cosmologies, narratives and world-views that had provided people with interpretive frameworks throughout their history. To put it differently, the book touches upon the question of cultural imperialism inscribed in the practices of land dispossession, which, as Palestinian literary critic Edward Said would say, did not simply come with soldiers but with new ways of seeing and framing ‘the other’ which enabled the imposition of institutions and customs upon indigenous narratives. The violence the authors refer to can be defined as epistemic, to quote Gayatri Spivak (1988), dehumanizing and annihilating pre-existing modes of understanding and thinking of indigenous people. The emergence of resistance is in part explained by the fact that subaltern groups are those mostly affected by the dispossessing and exploitative effects of capitalist colonial dispossession and are therefore at the forefront of struggles against primitive accumulation or accumulation by dispossession. The praxis of resistance represents in many ways an attempt to come to terms with the legacy and fractures of colonial capital structures of power and wealth inequality inscribed in the (post)colonial project and propose alternative paths and views of development to the mainstream western-centric orthodoxies. The book is also an attempt to decolonize methodologies of social enquiry as Linda Tuhiwai Smith (1999) put it. It offers an epistemological alternative to conventional ways in which the problem of rural dispossession is framed as a research problematique. The cumulative (and laudable) effect of the findings and arguments of the different chapters in the book is that of re-establishing the centrality of agrarian and rural struggles in the political economy of capitalist development, often silenced in the euro-centric, totalizing and teleological narratives of development. Simultaneously, they expose the development projects to critiques and challenges from below allowing for the crafting of new spaces of the ‘political’ in which to rethink alternatives to the status quo. References Spivak, G. C. ( 1988) Can the subaltern speak? in Nelson C. and Grossberg L., eds, Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture , Macmillan Education, Basingstoke, pp. 271– 313. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Tuhiwai-Smith, L. ( 1999) Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous People , Zed Books, London and New York. © Oxford University Press and Community Development Journal. 2018 All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)

Journal

Community Development JournalOxford University Press

Published: Mar 28, 2018

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