The University of Arizona

The anticipatory politics of dispossession in a Senegalese mining negotiation

Ashley Fent


The concept of accumulation by dispossession is often mobilized in political ecological and geographical literature, to explain the ways that capitalist accumulation depends on the violent and extra-economic seizure of land and resources. Yet dispossession is also mobilized as a fear about the future, as a way of articulating historical and non-capitalist motivations for land expropriation, and as an avenue for political action. Amid negotiations for a heavy mineral sands mine in the Casamance region of Senegal, narratives of dispossession circulated frequently, even though no mining had yet taken place. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork and qualitative interviews, this article examines the contentious politics around the proposed mine, which mobilize multiple timescales. In this context, activists and village residents have engaged in an anticipatory politics that is influenced by past and present processes of land occupancy, environmental change, and state disinvestment, and is aimed at contesting potential dispossessions to come, making claims to resources, and securing a place in the imagined future. At the same time, state and corporate actors have engaged in their own anticipatory actions, through environmental impact assessments and other technologies of prediction that minimize, invalidate, or circumvent anti-dispossession movements. This article argues that experiences of and resistances to dispossession are mediated by the folding together of temporal frames and diverse displacements. In particular, it attends to anticipation as a key temporal mechanism through which dispossession is both enacted and contested. As such, it contributes to political ecology by combining materialist conceptions of dispossession and displacement with theorizations of anticipation and the future.

Keywords: accumulation by dispossession, anticipatory politics, mining, Senegal

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