Melanie Sommerville

Sidney Smith Hall, Room 5017 | 100 St. George Street, Toronto, ON, M5S 3G3 (map)

Accumulating Dispossessions?: Finance, Race & Rural Development on the Settler Colonial Frontier

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This talk concerns two transitions unfolding concurrently in rural areas of historical settler colonies: the first in the organization of the agrarian economy towards financialized models of profit extraction, the second in the orientation of the liberal democratic state towards practices of racial reconciliation and reparations. Drawing from research conducted in Canada and South Africa, I consider the tensions that arise within and between these transitions. I pay particular attention to the rescripting of national land claims and land reform programs and the potential of these programs to support economic redistribution. At the current conjuncture, what passes for redress in fact delivers new rounds of dispossession, exploitation, and racialized uneven development to hitherto colonized groups. I consider what new insights might be generated into the racialized logics that underlie established concepts of property, economic value, and rationality and the operation of these concepts at the settler colonial frontier. Relevant to recent events in Canada, I close by considering the confusing blends of ‘traditional’ and liberal democratic institutions that operate in rural areas with a history of settler colonialism, disciplining economic activity and futures.

Melanie Sommerville is a Faculty of Arts and Sciences Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Department of Geography and Planning at the University of Toronto (St. George Campus). Melanie’s research brings a broadly comparative approach to understanding processes of social and environmental change in rural Canada and South Africa. Areas of particular interest include the racial politics of rural and resource-dependent settings, the financialization of agro-food systems, contemporary land claims and land reform programs, the monetization of colonial histories and reparative movements, and the biopolitics of economic value in the wildlife sector.

Toronto is in the ‘Dish With One Spoon Territory’. The Dish With One Spoon is a treaty between the Anishinaabe, Mississaugas and Haudenosaunee that bound them to share the territory and protect the land. Subsequent Indigenous Nations and peoples, Europeans and all newcomers have been invited into this treaty in the spirit of peace, friendship and respect.

Sidney Smith Hall (100 St. George Street, Toronto, M5S3G3) is an accessible building, with a ramp located at the Huron Street entrance. Closest TTC locations: St. George and Spadina stations, the 510 Spadina streetcar at Harbord Street, and the 94 Wellesley/Ossington bus at St. George Street.


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