Rama Salla Dieng

Biography

Rama Salla Dieng, is a Senegalese writer, scholar-activist. She is currently a Lecturer in African Studies and International Development at the University of Edinburgh. Her research is at the intersection of critical agrarian studies, feminist political economy, and gender and development. Previously, she worked at the Institute for Economic Development and Planning (IDEP) based in Senegal and at the UNDP in Mauritius. Rama is currently a member of the Governing Council of the Development Studies Association UK, in charge of Decolonising Development Studies. She is also the curator of the African Feminisms in Dialogue series and the Lead Editor of a collective anthology on Feminist Parenting: Perspectives from Africa and Beyond (2020).

Abstract

The “neo-housewification” of cheap horticulture workers in Northern Senegal: Analysing the conjugated dynamics of Capitalist Paternalisms and Patriarchies

After 2007, a rising interest in farmland: the land rush, or “land grabbing”, has been experienced in developing countries including in Africa that has been denounced by NGOs, think-tanks and the academia (Edelman et al 2013, Borras et al 2013, Oya 2013, Dieng 2017). While the drivers, scale and actors in this renewed interest in land (and labour) are still contested, there is a growing body of knowledge interested in its differentiated impact and outcomes (Hall et al 2015, Baglioni 2017, Pattenden 2018, Cousin 2018). This article seeks to understand which dynamics of agrarian change emerge out of those land deals by analysing some of the transformations led by the spectacular rise horticulture in the Senegalese River Valley Region between 2006 and 2017. Based on an ethnographic comparative study of three Fresh Fruits and Vegetables export horticultural firms in two regions of Northern Senegal, and combining feminist critical political economy and decolonial methodologies, I argue that the alliances and strategic complicities between corporate paternalisms and capitalist patriarchies is what holds together the ‘exploitation without dispossession’ (Berry 1993) or yet again ‘control grabbing’ (Borras et al 2012) of fragmented classes of labour by classes of capital following land deals. By straddling the domestic and ‘professional’ lives of workers, corporate players use a variety of strategies to control wage labour and transform it into cheap labourers (Mbilinyi 1986). I argue that this transposes the logic of the “domestic economy” to that of the market: firms have re-invented themselves as a new “family” in which capitalism-patriarchy disciplines and controls wage labour in order to reproduce labour markets while depreciating the value of labour, with the fallacious objective to “leave no-one behind”. In return, wage workers also use a diverse repertoire of everyday forms of resistance to counter and renegotiate their subject positions vis-à-vis these capitalist enterprises. By studying up, studying down, and studying through, this article contributes to the debunking of single and narratives about outcomes of export horticulture on “the rural wage worker” through life-histories which can enable research participants to re-create their histories and reclaim agency over their own lives.

Affiliation: University of Edinburgh