Rethinking Investment Dynamics: An Alternative Framework of the Global Land Rush


  • Elizabeth Starr Yale University



Capital Flows, Civil Society, Foreign Capital, Investors, Land, Land Deal, Land Grab, Speculation, Typology


Despite growing interest in "land grabbing," the comparative literature remains biased in several key ways, failing to capture the full diversity of land investments and to incorporate the important findings made by case-study researchers. This paper analyzes in particular three analytical blind spots in current typologies of the global land grab phenomenon: (a) the failure to incorporate nonproductive investments, including speculation; (b) the misguided focus on investor nationality, as opposed to capital flows; and (c) the tendency to ignore how domestic actors shape the terms of a land deal. In drawing attention to these limitations, this paper constructs two typologies of land investment — one describing physical changes in land use, and another mapping interactions between investors and developing country actors. Working in conjunction, they help to explain why land deals occur where they do and how they change not only the land itself, but also people's relation to the land. This paper therefore calls for a more nuanced analysis of the bargaining processes that underlie every land deal and also of the potential policy alternatives that may attract investment without sacrificing the livelihoods or lands of vulnerable local populations.


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Author Biography

Elizabeth Starr, Yale University

Connecticut, USA. The author is currently a researcher at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia. 



How to Cite

Starr, E. (2014). Rethinking Investment Dynamics: An Alternative Framework of the Global Land Rush. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 4(1), 79–98.