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

Sarah Ruth Sippel (SFB 1199 & LeipzigU)

Publication Date

November 2017


Tousand Oaks: Sage Journals






Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space


Jamie Peck (ed.)







Additional Information


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 & Leipzig University)

Sarah Ruth Sippel is a Senior Researcher at the University of Leipzig, Germany, and an Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the University of Queensland, Australia. She studied Middle Eastern studies and philosophy in Leipzig and Aix-en-Provence and received her PhD in geography. She has intensively worked on the interlinkages between export agriculture, rural livelihood security, and labour migration in North Africa and the Western Mediterranean region. Her current research explores the nexus between global food security, financialization of natural resources, and emerging forms of solidarities within global agri-food systems. She is Principal Investigator of a four-year research project on imaginations of land (C04, SFB 1199) funded by the German Research Foundation.

Sarah Ruth Sippel developed the Explorative Workshop Envisioning the Future of Food Across North-South Divides which is part of the strategic cooperation between the Forum Transregionale Studien and the Max Weber Stiftung – Deutsche Geisteswissenschaftliche Institute im Ausland. The workshop will take place in Berlin from 1 to 3 December 2016.