Accepted Paper:

Frontier spaces - shrinking spaces? Commodity frontiers and civil society actions  


Louisa Prause (Freie Universität Berlin)

Paper short abstract:

Do commodity frontiers constitute a specific type of shrinking spaces? It is one of the state’s central tasks to facilitate the accumulation process; frontier spaces therefore constitute a site of increased state presence and increased repression against civil society organizations.

Paper long abstract:

So far the term shrinking spaces has mainly been used to express concern about increasingly restrictive laws and regulations regarding civil society activities put through by authoritarian regimes such as Ethiopia or Cambodia. The notion of shrinking spaces generally refers to restictive national laws and regulations as well as repressions by national governments. In this article I want to argue, that we need to take the concept of space seriously when we discuss "shrinking spaces". The room for maneuver does not shrink necessarily for all civil society organizations in a given country at the same time. Civil society organizations work on vastly different topics at various geographic locations and at different scales.

In the context of the recent commodity boom, new frontier spaces have been opened up. Central question of my presentation is whether commodity frontiers constitute a specific type of shrinking spaces. I argue that since it is one of the state's central tasks to facilitate the accumulation process, commodity frontiers constitute sites of increased state presence. To secure the control over a specific territory, protest actions by civil society organizations and local communities are increasingly controlled and repressed.

Taking the example of the fairly liberal democracy of Senegal, I will show that shrinking spaces cannot be observed nationally. However, new commodity frontiers related to the expansion of mining and agro-industry seem to be characterized by shrinking room for maneuver for civil society organizations.

Panel P025
Changing spaces for rural and urban civil society movements in Africa