Financialising Farming as a Moral Imperative? Renegotiating the Legitimacy of Land Investments in Australia

Sarah Ruth Sippel (SFB 1199)

Publication Date

July 2018


SAGE Publications






Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space








This paper investigates the debate about foreign investment in Australian farmland. Employing a moral perspective, it is argued that the apparent tensions over foreign land investments in recent years can be interpreted as a renegotiation of the legitimate grounds upon which farmland investments should take place. The analysis shows that elements of worth are being applied to farmland that go beyond the ‘pure’ treatment of land according to market principles. Most notably, national references, together with concerns about control over strategic resources and the involvement of foreign sovereign entities, have gained prominence. Reacting to these concerns, the investment of domestic superannuation capital has emerged as a moral imperative to keep farmland in ‘national hands’. The paper thus stresses the need for a more nuanced differentiation between different kinds of ‘capital’ and particularly the way they are morally evaluated. The paper furthermore reveals that the linkages between capital and ‘nature’ are not forged in a random or arbitrary way. They are crucially shaped by the societal understanding of the legitimacy of certain kinds of capital and their associated motives and intentions as part of the broader understanding about the rules and principles that should govern economic activities.

Biographical Note

Dr. Sarah Ruth Sippel (SFB 1199 & Institute of Anthropology, Leipzig University, Germany)
Sarah Ruth Sippel studied Middle Eastern studies and philosophy (Leipzig, Germany and Aix-en-Provence, France) and received her PhD in geography (Leipzig). In her PhD dissertation she combined a global agri-food systems perspective with various approaches to human and livelihood security in order to investigate processes of social differentiation in Moroccan export agriculture. Her current research project addresses the diverse imaginations of land through the lens of Australia’s increasing agricultural ties to the Gulf States and China.