09/01/19 – GTD Colloquium: ‘Agriculture as Financial Asset: Global Money and the Making of Institutional Landscapes’

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Date(s) - 09/01/19
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm

Grote Gracht 80-82 (Soiron Building). Room: 0001


Topic:Agriculture as Financial Asset: Global Money and the Making of Institutional Landscapes’

Participant: Stefan Ouma (Goethe University Frankfurt am Main)

Abstract:Finance has gone farming. Since the financial and food price crises 2007-8, the world has seen a stark rise in financial investments in farmland and agricultural production by investments banks, sovereign wealth funds, pension funds, insurance companies, family offices, endowment funds and high net-worth individuals. Indeed, finance has been identified as one of the main drivers of the so-called “global land rush”. The subprime shock induced great uncertainties among financial market players and financiers suddenly were in search for safe investment opportunities that promised better risk-adjusted returns than established asset classes such as bonds or  real estate. Consequently, financial investors have made a strong case for agriculture as an “alternative asset class”.

Based on multisited fieldwork in the emerging ‘agri investment space’, including visits to assetized farms in Tanzania and New Zealand, this talk engages with finance’s recent entanglement with agriculture via this notion of with this phenomenon via the notion of institutional landscapes. Institutional landscapes are those parts of the human and nonhuman world that have become transformed into a financial resource as part of portfolio considerations in order to serve the needs of institutional investors, who, in turn serve the needs of the more privileged ones of ‘us’. In other words, institutional landscapes are an expression of the expansion of a ‘global return society’, in which the reproduction of the better-off people of the Global North (and increasingly the Global South) has become tied to the reproduction of finance capital both ‘at home’ and abroad. Institutional landscaping does not simply overwrite the past, but often incorporates and thrives on older asset histories in order to generate financial value from the human and nonhuman world. This talk will offer a number of entry points to think through institutional landscapes.

Stefan Ouma is Assistant Professor in Economic Geography at the Department of Human Geography at Goethe University Frankfurt am Main. Stefan Ouma is working at the intersections of economic geography, economic sociology, science and technology studies, and agrarian studies. A defining feature of his research has been the ambition to unpack how global economic processes manifest themselves in the socialites, materialities and spatialities of everyday economic life across the Global South. He holds a BA in Human Geography from the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, an MA in African Development Studies from Bayreuth University and a PhD in Economic Geography from the University of Frankfurt/Main. He is currently, working on the rise of agriculture as an ʺalternative asset classˮ, with a particular focus on financial market-driven investments in agriculture in Tanzania and New Zealand.

Upcoming GTD colloquia:

  • Wednesday 6, February 2019: Robtel Pailey, University of Oxford
  • Wednesday 13, March 2019: Lovise Aalen, CMI (Christian Michelsen Institute)
  • Wednesday 10, April 2019: Isabella Geuskens (Women Peacemaker Program)