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 practice?the recent enclosure of African landand resources?but 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 Africa?s rural population, its land and laborunder-utilization, the ambiguity of its land tenure and related low yields, and its ?arrested?civilization. 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