Land Transformations in BRICS Workshop

The Land Transformations in BRICS workshop is a Student Academic Project organised by Mihika Chatterjee, DPhil International Development.

Nearly 15 years have passed since the acronym BRICS* (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) was brought into our popular vernacular by Jim O’Neill, an economist at Goldman Sachs. Much anticipation was placed on this emerging bloc of nation-states and its potential future impact on the global economy, hopes even going so far as to predict that these countries would overtake the six largest industrialised western economies by 2041.

In the years since, these countries have undergone dramatic land-use transformations in the name of economic ‘growth’ and ‘development’: China’s attempts at reestablishing the Silk Road Economic Belt across Europe, Asia and Africa; in India, the Modi Administration’s plan to develop 100 smart cities connected by bullet trains; Moscow’s aspiration to build the Russian Far East into a ‘new economic bridge’ between Europe and Asia through the development of Advanced Special Economic Zones; the expansion of industrial large-scale farming in Brazil and South Africa, are all in many ways manifestations of the BRICS visions for ‘sustainable’ and ‘smart’ development.

These dramatic land transformations are also spaces of contestation: between the planned and unplanned, formal and informal; the rural and urban; of shifting economic interests and priorities; of imaginations about futures and understandings of the present and past. The negotiations within these contested spaces merit our attention. It is here, in these ‘in-betweens’, that contemporary social, political and economic trajectories begin to materialize, drawn out, unevenly and piecemeal.

This one-day workshop sought to bring together early-career academics and doctoral students in the social sciences to engage in an interdisciplinary discussion reflecting on these large-scale transformations of land and space in the BRICS.

It took place on Friday 14 June 2019 at the Oxford Department of International Development.

*When initially coined the bloc only included Brazil, Russia, India and China; however in 2015, South Africa was also inducted into the bloc, adjusting the acronym to BRICS.





Welcoming remarks


Panel 1: Urban spaces

Discussant: Dr Idalina Baptista, University of Oxford

Trading China's authority: political trust as collateral in a Chinese development zone

Dr Tomas Skov Lauridsen, Aalborg University
Dr Jesper Willaing Zeuthen, Aalborg University

Victims Co., Ltd? Land grabbing with urban/Chinese characteristics

Dr Yimin Zhao, LSE and Renmin University of China

From not-possile land to ou topos: exploring the scramble for commons in Delhi's urban ecology

Nitin Bathla, DARCH, ETH Zurich


Tea and coffee break


Panel 2: Infrastructure spaces

Discussant: Professor Ruth Hall, PLAAS, University of Western Cape

'China in Africa' and the spatio-temporal fix: tracing the Sino-African 'corridor agenda'

Tim Zajontz, University of St Andrews

The politics of land transformations and infrastructure construction: a case study in a Chinese touristic town

Dr Jiechin Liu, Goldsmiths University

Accumulation by dispossession and displacement in Durban: the BRICS Bank's amplification of socio-ecological-economic conflict

Professor Patrick Bond, University of Witwatersrand

Fear, hope and imagination in agro-food foreign investment: experiences of geopolitical-geoeconomic and operational uncertainty for Cargill Russia

Dr Chris Lander, University of Oxford




Panel 3: Rural spaces

Discussant: Dr Geoff Goodwin, University of Oxford

Agrarian change, everyday explorations, and imaginaries of land: the case of ginger farming in Southern India

Sudheesh R.C., University of Oxford

Global agro-commodity expansion and indigenous resistance in Brazil: new conflicts over old land

Edmund Hoppe Oderich, Cardiff University
Daniele Cavichioli Barbosa, Cardiff University

Follies of fossil fuels: the case study of Adani Thermal Power Plant in Godda, Jharkhand

Malvika Gupta, University of Oxford
Brototi Roy, Autonomous University of Barcelona


Closing discussion


Tea and coffee break


Keynote address: Rethinking agrarian transformations: agribusiness expansionism in, by and via the BRICS

Professor Ruth Hall, PLAAS, University of Western Cape