SWOP is delighted to announce that Gavin Capps has been awarded the Bernstein and Byres Prize in Agrarian Change for the best article published in the Journal of Agrarian Change in 2016. Titled ‘Tribal-Landed Property: The Value of the Chieftaincy in Contemporary Africa’, the article seeks to develop a materialist analysis of the new forms of rentier appropriation that have increasingly centred on the chieftaincy in the context of the ‘second scramble’ for Africa’s mineral and other natural resources, and, in so doing, conceptually locate ‘communal’ land relations within the rubric of value relations – a notable lacunae in current debates about the colonial formation and contemporary reform of ‘customary’ tenure regimes. Primarily conceived as a theoretical contribution, it draws on Gavin’s longstanding work on the chieftaincy, land and platinum mining in the former homelands, including for the Ford-funded Mining and Rural Transformation in Southern Africa (MARTISA) project, which he has led at SWOP since 2013.
According to the prize committee: the article is ‘an intellectual tour de force, representing a theoretical intervention of considerable originality and subtlety’, which ‘takes in and connects a sophisticated understanding of Marx’s theory of [modern landed property and] rent in particular; methodological issues of adapting Marx’s most abstract formulations to exploring and explaining the diverse histories of capitalism; generating new concepts of ‘tribal-landed property’ and ‘rentier chieftaincy’; and demonstrating their potency in sub-Saharan Africa’s colonial history and beyond’. Capps’ emergent concept of ‘tribal-landed property’ has ‘profound implications for the “narrative” of land in sub-Saharan Africa’.
The full citation may be found HERE, along with a recording of a recent talk by Gavin based on the article at the School of Oriental and African Studies (London); and the article HERE (electronic copy also available from SWOP on request).