Governing precarious lives: land grabs, geopolitics, and ‘food security’


  • The information, practices and views in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG).


This paper has a two-part structure. The first part of the paper explores contemporary land grabs and shows how they both reflect and constitute a new neoliberal governance structure over land and land-based resources. In this sense, what is noteworthy about land grabs is their world-making capacity: the deals structure and make possible new relations of power in the global food economy. For this very reason, it is crucial to understand how land grabs affect both the pace and direction of agrarian change. The second part of the paper examines the discursive strategies that align ‘food security’ concerns with land-grabbing practices. Here I suggest that ‘food security’ supplies a moral sanction for land grabs. By mustering public empathy around a desire to ‘feed the future’, food security discourse – to borrow an idea from Fassin (2012) – converts a relationship of dominance (the governance of precarious lives) into a relationship of assistance (the provision of a remedy).