New Terra Nullius Narratives and the Gentrification of Africa's "Empty Lands"

  • Charles Geisler Cornell University


Extraterritorial ownership and control of sub-Saharan African land have a long and troubledhistory. This research investigates a much-studied practicethe recent enclosure of African landand resourcesbut asks a little-studied question: how are non-Africans reasserting terra nulliusnarratives of the past to justify the present transformation of African landscapes? The answersuggested here lies in a bulwark of de facto terra nullius claims couched in security needs of theglobal North and referenced to the low density of Africas rural population, its land and laborunder-utilization, the ambiguity of its land tenure and related low yields, and its arrestedcivilization. De facto terra nullius is neither narrow in scope nor static in application. It isstirring again as a potent justificatory logic for north-south land relations.
How to Cite
Geisler, C. (2012). New Terra Nullius Narratives and the Gentrification of Africa’s "Empty Lands". Journal of World-Systems Research, 18(1), 15–29.
Land Rights in the World-System