Tactics of Dispossession: Access, Power, and Subjectivity at the Extractive Frontier

Tomas Frederiksen, Matthew Himley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this article we analyse and theorise how power is exercised and subjectivities reworked to achieve and maintain socio-political order in areas of large-scale international extractive investment. Through a critical review of recent literature on the political ecologies of the international mining and hydrocarbon industries, we explore the strategies that firms and their allies deploy to secure and preserve the transformed relations of land and resource access upon which accumulation relies. Inspired by the work of John Allen we analyse these strategies with attention to the modalities and techniques of power used, highlighting the diverse ways socio-political stability is pursued despite the industry’s destabilising effects. What emerges is that, contrasting the sector’s reputation for coercion and domination, transformed regimes of access to land and resources at the extractive frontier are to a significant degree achieved and stabilised through what Allen calls the ‘quieter registers’ of power. Attention to the varied and overlapping ways extractive firms and their allies exercise power to secure and maintain access to land and resources highlights limitations to David Harvey’s influential accumulation by dispossession framework for understanding how extractive capital circulates into ‘new ground’. It also directs attention to processes of subject formation at the extractive frontier, and to how industry expansion may be facilitated through the production of particular kinds of subjects. To illustrate this, we outline three interrelated ways subjectivities are reworked through peoples’ encounters with the logics, materiality, and power of contemporary extractive industry. We suggest that those living in the shadow of large international extractive operations become extractive subjects.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-64
JournalTransactions of the Institute of British Geographers
Issue number1
Early online date18 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jul 2019


  • accumulation by dispossession
  • extractive industry
  • , land and resource access
  • power
  • subjectivity

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Global Development Institute


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