Extracting sovereignty: Capital, territory, and gold mining in Tanzania

Jody Emel, Matthew T. Huber, Madoshi H. Makene

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

131 Scopus citations


In contemporary discussions of " resource nationalism," sovereignty is often imagined as the exclusive control of national states over internal resources in opposition to external foreign capital. In this paper, we seek to draw attention to the specifically national territorial forms of sovereignty that - rather than hindering the flow of capital - become constitutive to the accumulation of resource wealth by states and capital alike. Drawing from political geographical theorizations of sovereignty, we argue that resource sovereignty cannot be territorially circumscribed within national space and institutionally circumscribed within the state apparatus. Rather, sovereignty must be understood in relational terms to take into account the global geography of non-state actors that shape access to and control over natural resources. Specifically, we engage national-scale state sovereignty over subterranean mineral resources in the form of legal property regimes and examine the mutually constitutive set of interdependencies between mining capital and landlord states in the accumulation of resource wealth. Using Tanzania as a case study, we argue that national-scale ownership of subterranean mineral resources has been critical to attracting global flows of mining capital from colonial to contemporary times. We first examine the history of the colonial state in Tanganyika to illustrate how land and mineral rights were adjudicated through the power of the colonial state with the hopes of attracting foreign capital investment in the mining sector. We then examine contemporary efforts on the part of the independent United Republic of Tanzania to again enact legislation meant to attract foreign mining companies - and the consequences for local populations living near sites of extraction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)70-79
Number of pages10
JournalPolitical Geography
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2011


  • Capital
  • Gold
  • Sovereignty
  • State
  • Tanzania
  • Territory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


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