Commodity Frontiers and Global Capitalist Expansion: Social, Ecological and Resource Policy Implications

4th International Workshop, 6-7 December 2017

Zayed University, Dubai

The transformation of the physical environment and, in turn, people’s relationship to the environment have been key processes in the emergence and consolidation of global capitalism over the past 500 years. Providing raw and intermediate materials to satisfy the voracious appetite of machines and city dwellers, the flatlands, valleys, forests, marine spaces, and mountains of the world have been transformed at astonishing and accelerating speed. This process of appropriation of the world’s ecological surpluses has come to be understood as that of shifting ‘commodity frontiers’. The two-day multi-disciplinary workshop is designed to explore the dynamics of frontier processes and how they relate to social, economic, political and ecological change in their zones of contact, with particular interest in research that explores one or more of the following issues:

  • The political economy of commodity frontier dynamics
  • The ecological impact of commodity frontier expansion on local or regional biodiversity and the implications of such environmental transformation on human populations
  • The relationship between science, technology, and state power in managing, appropriating and/or extracting resources and expanding commodity frontiers
  • The policy implications of such ecological transformation, including historical, contemporary and future strategies of resource management, conservation and sustainable development

The workshop aims to develop a comparative approach to understanding the dynamics both of commodity frontiers and the historical trajectories within their frontier zones, with particular interest in the differences/ similarities between commodity frontiers which in one way or another have had an impact on the land and people’s relationship to the land—these include frontiers with fossil fuels, minerals, agricultural commodities, natural resources, animals/ animal products or fisheries. A special panel will be devoted to examining oil frontiers in the region and beyond from a comparative perspective, with a view to reflecting on future trajectories of these commodity frontiers from an ecological, economic, social, and/or policy perspective.

The workshop is a collaboration between Zayed University, College of Humanities and Social Sciences and the international Commodity Frontiers Initiative, organised through the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam (IISH), the University of Ghent, and Harvard University.

Workshop Programme