Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Anthropology and Environment Society
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Students
Primary Theme: Environment and Environmental Inequality
Secondary Theme: Inequality
The concept of enclosure has helped anthropologists theorize patterns of rural inequality from early modern England to contemporary privatization schemes in the Global South. Land grabs, dispossession, and privatization have been and continue to be critical dynamics in the political ecology of rural landscapes. Yet the concept of enclosure originates from a specific moment in European history, and the extent of its applicability to other contexts remains an open question. What are the limitations of the enclosure concept for theorizing processes of accumulation and dispossession of land in a variety of temporal and geographic contexts? And how can experiences and theorizations from contexts outside of Europe, and from contexts that precede capitalist expansion, be a source of new insight for how these processes unfold? Drawing on the breadth of archaeological and ethnographic work on rural inequalities, this session generates a more robust vocabulary for processes that resemble enclosure. The papers in this panel offer additional ways to think about enclosure and its attendant processes of accumulation, alienation, and privatization across time and space; ways that complement the existing literature and go beyond Eurocentric theories. In particular, papers in this session illustrate how the integration of environmental considerations into this broader theorization of enclosure leads to an improved understanding of rural resistance, resilience, and adaptation.
Each paper is an empirically and theoretically rich contribution to the political ecology of enclosure in archaeological and ethnographic contexts. Blair ethnographically examines property regimes in the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), considering the conflicting terrestrial conditions and maritime claims of the ongoing sovereignty dispute between Argentina and the UK in a context of settler colonialism. Abdelrahman’s ethnography centers the experiences of migrant laborers and pastoralists in contemporary central Sudan, where processes of dispossession and desertification intersect. Catlin’s archaeological research investigates the development of social inequality in medieval Iceland, where the dispossession of marginal settlements contributed to the development of an environmentally sustainable, yet socially unequal landscape. Kirigia ethnographically demonstrates the complexity of accumulation through dispossession “from within” through rangeland enclosures and the subdivision of Maasai Group Ranches in Kenya. Smit’s paper draws on archaeological research on mercury mining in the 16th Century Peruvian Andes to illuminate the failures of dispossession and spaces of repossession on the margins. Alexander ethnographically shows how people engage with technologies of enclosure and wilding to facilitate movement and constraint in the regions surrounding Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. These papers contribute a temporally and spatially diverse range of perspectives on enclosure. Presented and discussed together, they demonstrate powerful and novel approaches to the study of political ecology in anthropology.