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Provisional Reconstructions: Geo-Histories of Infrastructure and Agrarian Configuration in Malanje, Angola

  • Author(s): Degrassi, Aaron Laurence
  • Advisor(s): Watts, Michael J
  • et al.

Fueled by a massive offshore deep-water oil boom, Angola has since the end of war in 2002 undertaken a huge, complex, and contradictory national reconstruction program whose character and dynamics have yet to be carefully studied and analyzed. What explains the patterns of such projects, who is benefitting from them, and how? The dissertation is grounded in the specific dynamics of cassava production, processing and marketing in two villages in Western Malanje Province in north central Angola. The ways in which Western Malanje’s cassava farmers’ livelihoods are shaped by transport, marketing, and an overall agrarian configuration illustrate how contemporary reconstruction – in the context of an offshore oil boom – has occurred through the specific conjunctures of multiple geo-historical processes associated with settler colonialism, protracted war, and leveraged liberalization. Such an explanation contrasts with previous more narrow emphases on elite enrichment and domination through control of external trade. Infrastructure projects are occurring as part of an agrarian configuration in which patterns of land, roads, and markets have emerged through recursive relations, and which is characterized by concentration, hierarchy and fragmentation.

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