DOI: 10.1111/joac.12560 ISSN:

A framework for understanding land control transfer in agricultural commodity frontiers

Olivia del Giorgio
  • Archeology
  • Anthropology
  • Archeology
  • Global and Planetary Change


Across the globe, the expansion of large‐scale commodity agriculture is occurring not into empty space but over existing social systems. An understanding of the dynamics of expansion and associated impacts of commodity agriculture thus fundamentally requires examining how existing control regimes are dissolved and, simultaneously, how novel ones are assembled in order to make way for the changes in resources use that characterize these transitional moments. With this in mind, in this article, I provide a broad review of the strategies used to secure control over land prospected for agricultural commodity production, distinguishing between the tactics that are applied by agro‐interested actors in order to ‘break down’ forms of existing land control, those they apply in parallel to ‘build up’ new control structures, and those strategies that are applied by actors (often smallholders) wishing to ‘hold on to’ the control that they have. I then present a framework for examining the dynamics of control transfer that builds on this analytical structure of ‘breaking down’, ‘building up’, and ‘holding on to’ control.

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