Knowledge and Control in the Contemporary Land Rush: Making Local Land Legible and Corporate Power Applicable in Rural Sierra Leone


Millar, Gearoid. 2016. “Knowledge and Control in the Contemporary Land Rush: Making Local Land Legible and Corporate Power Applicable in Rural Sierra Leone.” Journal of Agrarian Change 16 (2): 206–24. doi:10.1111/joac.12102.

Author: Gearoid Millar


Substantial media and academic attention has recently focused on changing patterns of land control in the ‘Global South’, wherein foreign governments and corporations seek to control land for food, fuel and feed production. Recent scholarship describes such projects as symptomatic of a broader liberalization of global governance. However, few studies investigate how such liberal governance is applied on the ground in host countries. This paper fills this need by examining one such case in Sierra Leone, and describing the various technologies of control deployed to make local land legible to the corporate eye and therefore manageable within the liberal model. As I show, such imported technologies are disrupting and displacing traditional modes of authority and allowing the company concerned to apply power and manage both the land and the local people. At the same time, however, these technologies generate frictions on the ground, creating dangerous tensions between the various actors in the local setting.

Keywords: land-grab, bioenergy, liberalism, international development, Sierra Leone

Topics: Infrastructure, Land Grabbing, Livelihoods, Rights, Land Rights Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Sierra Leone

Year: 2016

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