Emptying the Future, Claiming Space. The Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania as a Spatial Imaginary for Global Integration

Gideon Tups (U of Cologne)

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A widespread reembrace of large-scale infrastructures in Africa allures with the rapid integration of rural peripheries into global networks of production and trade. Especially the recent boom of development corridors is hence underpinned by the spatio-temporality of “global integration.” Gideon Tups approaches this spatio-temporality through a conceptualization of development corridors as spatial imaginaries. They unfold their power through the two generative mechanisms of emptying the future and claiming space. Together, these mechanisms can render crucial topographical and topological “insides” and “outsides” to become available for coupling processes between regional assets and global networks.

His case study research along the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT) provides an analysis of the corridor’s spatio-temporality and its effect on the coupling process between global networks for synthetic fertilizer and Tanzanian farming regions. Facing unfavourable coupling conditions with Tanzania’s agricultural sector, SAGCOT’s mobilization served to promote a narrow imaginary of Tanzania’s agrarian future, thereby making a soft claim to topographical (through the corridor) and topological space (through a network of corridor stakeholders). Although fertilizer multinationals and Tanzanian counterparts initially capitalized on SAGCOT’s mobilization, a gradual disenchantment with SAGCOT’s vision due to its slow and erratic implementation jeopardizes the same coupling processes today.

Approaching development corridors as spatial imaginaries reveals therefore their instrumental but fragile power over time and space in overcoming barriers to globalization. Such power is not about blunt domination or coercion but rather builds on persuasion and consent. Only when spatial imaginaries succeed in maintaining persuasive arguments about the future, is their function of manipulating and stabilizing otherwise unfavourable coupling conditions available.

Biographical Note

Gideon Tups (Institute of Geography, University of Cologne, Germany)

Gideon Tups is a research fellow and PhD Candidate at the Collaborative Research Center 288 “Future Rural Africa: Future-making and social-ecological transformation” in the sub-project C01: Future in Chains: Socio Economic Impacts of Growth Corridors. His research interests include agricultural production systems in the Global South, agrarian change, development corridors, infrastructure and connectivity in Africa and especially in Kenya, Namibia, Zambia and Tanzania.

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