This talk focuses ethnographic attention on Emirati land investments in Sudan, to argue that they form part of a project of empire-making, which relies on racialized processes of capital accumulation to reproduce itself. One investment is a proposed $6 billion port project along the Red Sea coast, while the other, a 40,000-acre alfalfa farm in the Gezira (Sudan’s agricultural heartland) began operating in 2008. Through an analysis of the social and geopolitical dynamics that shape these investments, this talk seeks to contribute towards conceptualizations of empire-making as processes aimed at controlling transnational networks and circuits of production and distribution, as opposed to or in addition to territory. I ask: How might we understand the significance of this proposed Emirati-financed port project along Sudan’s Red Sea coast, which has long been a site of imperial invasion and extraction, from the vantage point of the Gezira, which constitutes another imperial node of extraction. What else might we learn as Michel Rolph Trouillot argues (1988), by shifting not only the vantage point, but also the scales of our analysis across multiple temporalities and spaces: the plantation, the body, the home, the cash crop to name a few? How might such a multi-scalar analysis enable us to trace the spatialized geography of Emirati power and hegemony in and beyond Sudan, while also paying attention to the dynamics and processes that threaten to destabilize it?
Nisrin Elamin is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology and African Studies at the University of Toronto. She received her Ph.D. in Anthropology from Stanford University in 2020. Her doctoral research was an ethnographic examination of the ways Saudi and Emirati corporate investments in land reconfigured everyday social relations between landless and landholding stakeholders in Sudan's agricultural heartland: the Gezira. Nisrin has published scholarly articles in Critical African Studies and the Project on the Middle East Political Science Journal. She has also published several op-eds for Al Jazeera, the Washington Post, Okay Africa, and the Cultural Anthropology Hot Spot Series. Before pursuing her Ph.D., Nisrin spent over a decade working in youth development, community organizing, and resource rights in the US and Tanzania.