Transactions Of The Institute Of British Geographers

The so‐called global land rush has drawn new focus on land, its value and uses. But land is a strange object. Though it is treated as a thing and sometimes as a commodity often, it isn’t just like a mat: you can not move it up and take it away. To turn it to successful use requires regimes of exclusion that distinguish legitimate from illegitimate uses and users, and the inscribing of limitations through devices such as fences, title deeds, laws, areas, regulations, landmarks, and story‐lines.

Its very ‘resourceness’ is no intrinsic or natural quality. It really is an assemblage of materialities, relationships, technologies, and discourses that have to be pulled together and made to align. To render it invisible, more work is necessary. This Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers Plenary Lecture uses an analytic of assemblage to examine the practices that define land as a reference.

It focuses especially on the ‘statistical picturing’ devices and other graphic forms that make large‐scale investments in land thinkable, and the procedures by which relevant actors (experts, investors, villagers, government authorities) are enrolled. It also considers a few of the potential risks that follow when these large‐scale investments land in particular places, as land they must.

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