Dixon, M. 2017. ‘Plastics and Agriculture in the Desert Frontier’. Special Issue: Politics of Food. Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East 31(1): 86-102.
Literature on the global agri-food system largely overlooks the role of reclamation of arid and semi-arid lands in the industrialization of horticulture (fruits, vegetables, and ornamentals) worldwide in the neoliberal period. Why has the development and expansion of industrial horticulture synchronized with “greening the desert” policies and narratives?
In this article I address this question with the concept of desert frontier, which is developed through a case study of industrial horticulture production in Egypt’s arid regions and through an analysis of the relations between nature and society. The desert frontier in Egypt demonstrates that the socioecological relations that constitute industrial horticulture have necessitated transformations in farm organization and on-farm practice toward an increasingly coercive and capital-intensive set of agritechnologies and protocols to manage the volatility of industrial agriculture (from monocultures, perpetual genetic erosion, cropping intensification, and so on). The movement of agroexport farms into arid regions has been part of these processes of biosecuratization. This analysis of the socioecological conditions of expanded commodity production with the global food system or corporate food regime problematizes reemerging “greening the desert” narratives that parade the latest greening technical feats as a solution to securing food production in a warming planet.
This article is part of a special issue on ‘Politics of Food’, edited by Timothy Mitchell and Anupama Rao (Duke University Press).
2015. ‘Biosecurity and the Multiplication of Crises in the Egyptian Agri-food Industry’. Geoforum 61: 90-100.
Policy makers, scientists, industry leaders, and theorists alike assume that there is a direct positive relationship between biosecurity measures — national and international protocols to contain the movement of pests and pathogens in production and trade — and protection from pests and pathogens (in production sites, in food, etc.). In this article, I demonstrate that this premise of biosecurity is false. There is not a direct positive relationship between biosecurity and protection across time and space.
I demonstrate this thesis by combining the global history, life, and movement of the Avian flu virus with the ecology of both the production environment and industrial poultry’s value chain (from industrial production to open markets). I follow the movement of the Avian flu throughout the 20th century and across the world — to Egypt in 2006 when the flu first entered the country. In doing so, I demonstrate that industrial poultry in Egypt and beyond was the vector of the flu virus even though small-scale poultry was most affected by the flu’s endemic spread. Over time and across space there has been a reinforcing tension between the multiplication of crises in agricultural production (not just the growth of the types of pests/pathogens, but their growing virulence) and a biosecurity regime that has become increasingly strict, creating ever greater controls over the inside of the production environment, even at the molecular level.
- ‘The land grab, finance capital, and food regime restructuring: the case of Egypt’. Review of African Political Economy 41(140): 232-248.
The role of Egyptian finance capital in acquiring (and attempting to acquire) agricultural land in southern neighbouring countries since the 2007/08 food-fuel-financial represents in part the southward expansion of the frontier in Egypt, or new socio-ecological spaces for heightened capital accumulation. This expansion, heralded by processes of financialization, is the latest wave of corporate consolidation of the country’s agri-food system. This paper offers an historical analysis of frontier making in modern-day Egypt and how it has been shaped by relations between Egypt and Sudan within a restructuring hegemonic state system, from the 19th century to present-day revolutionary times. Then, a case study of one Egyptian financial firm, Citadel Capital, is detailed to demonstrate that the ‘global land grab’ reflects food regime restructuring with the end of cheap food and oil – and greater food insecurity and political instability in Egypt and in southern neighbouring countries.
2011. ‘An Arab Spring’. Review of African Political Economy 38(128): 309-316.
Cited as the second most read article in the Review of African Political Economy (by Taylor & Francis Online).