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YOUJIN CHUNG: Governing Liminality: The Gendered Politics of Life and Death in Tanzania’s New Enclosures

April 21 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm PDT


Youjin Chung
University of California, Berkeley

DATE: April 21, 2021
TIME: 3:30PM – 5PM PST

Over the past decade, there has been a surge in transnational land acquisitions around the world. Yet available evidence suggests that many of the prominent land deals signed during the global land rush are struggling to materialize. Rather than classifying such incomplete land deals as “failures,” what if we chose to think with the heuristic of liminality? Whereas failure implies a done deal, characterized by absence, closure, or the inability to affect, liminality leaves room for contingency, ambiguity, interstitiality, and the possibility of politics, both productive and repressive. In this talk, I argue that this emergent pattern of liminality has important implications for understanding the gendered politics of land deal governance and subject formation. Drawing on ethnographic research on a high-profile land deal in Tanzania known as the EcoEnergy Sugar Project, I show how the project’s prolonged delay gave rise to two contradistinctive sets of actors and mechanisms of control: first, biopolitical interventions of foreign development consultants aimed at optimizing the lives of rural populations through skills training programs, and second, necropolitical interventions of district paramilitary forces aimed at subjugating rural bodies through the use and threat of force. While seemingly contradictory and conflictual at first glance, both forms of governmentality had similar gendered effects: they forced a renegotiation of intra-household relations of social reproduction, and in so doing, reinforced normative assumptions about gender roles in rural Tanzania.

Youjin Chung is Assistant Professor in the Energy and Resources Group and the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management at UC Berkeley. Her research areas include the political economy of development, feminist political ecology, critical agrarian and food studies, science and technology studies, and African studies.


April 21
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm PDT
Event Category:


Berkeley Geography