SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Ms Jessica M Chu

MA Anthropology of Food (SOAS), BAH History (Queen's), BSc Life Sciences (Queen's).
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Jessica Chu
Ms Jessica M Chu
Email address:
Thesis title:
The cultural economy of 'land grabs' in Zambia (working title).
Internal Supervisors


Agricultural development and food security, natural resource governance, anthropology of development policy and practice, Zambia, Southern Africa.

PhD Research

My research seeks to explore the rising interest in large-scale land acquisitions, often labelled ‘land grabs’, in Zambia. Several questions have emerged in ‘land grabs’. How does one define 'land grabs' and according to whom is land being 'grabbed'? What is at stake on the land? Whose voices are heard and not heart in the cries of ‘land grab’? Do people welcome the opportunity for wage labour or are they fighting to save their homes and ways of life? Are there differences between what is being said and what is occurring? What are the legal mechanisms that are allowing these land transactions to occur, and what is the history that has led to these mechanisms? Land grabs’ have simultaneously precipitated outcries from the media, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society movements alike, but have also been lauded as the new way forward for agricultural development models by others. It is this gap between opinions that I situate my research.

One might interpret this division as the power of ‘global’ discourses that dictate what we think we know, and the nuances of local contexts.
If much of what is known about ‘land grabs’ is dictated by global discourses, what is the alternative and how can one conduct field research on this? Therefore my research concerns, not finding and reporting incidences of 'land grabs', but rather, exploring 'land grabs' as complex sites where a number interests and discourses intersect.