Eric Clarke and Anders Lund Hansen – Financialization, rescaling rent gaps and land grabbing

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Event Date 22 – 23 May 2012
Royal Holloway University of London
11 Bedford Sq
London WC1E 6DP

The Department of Geography at Royal Holloway University of London presents:

Speculating on Slums

 

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This two day workshop in May 2012 in Bedford Square, London will examine the role played by global financial investments in land markets and globalised networks of capital in slums of developing countries. It questions some of the underlying assumptions through which informal housing in the global South has been understood, gives insights into new emerging forms of marginality, highlights contradictory, complex tensions that emerge for donors, governments, and NGOs in relation to the urban poor. The workshop draws together interdisciplinary intellectual debates, key conceptual, political and policy lessons which will enable a new research agenda for work in informal housing in the global South. Leading academic scholars working on informal housing issues and NGO practitioners will be the main selective participants in the workshop.

Eric Clarke and Anders Lund Hansen (Lund University) – Financialization, rescaling rent gaps and land grabbing

With commodification of land extending into global peripheries, land is increasingly treated as a pure financial asset and rent gaps – the difference between potential land rents and actual land rents – expand their scope of influence inchanneling flows of capital and shaping the allocation of capital to land. The making and taking of rent gaps at increasing scales, we argue, is a principal form of accumulation by dispossession with destructive impacts manifested in among other ways the ongoing global operations of land grabbing. These processes have intensified and sprawled with burgeoning financialisation, increasing competition over land by corporate farming and financially rich countries short on arable land, mushrooming tourism industries, the drive to replace oil with biofuels, and increasing inequalities associated with the global wave of neoliberalization. Engels cogently analyzed the forces of rent gaps in The Housing Question (1872). Neil Smith observed over a century later that the process had become virtually universal. David Harvey consistently brings land rent into the forefront of analysis in order to understand the ongoing production of space and geography and the circulation and accumulation of capital. Theoretically we draw on these analyses to develop the notion of ‘rescaling rent gaps’, by which we refer to the upscaling of fields of power engaged in making and taking rent gaps, associated with expanding commodification and financialization of land. Empirically we draw on secondary sources to focus on how financialization of land and the rescaling of rent gaps underlie processes of land grabbing in the context of informal housing.

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