CRG Seminar: The regime of hopes and broken promises of a large-scale land deal in Senegal: “The company promised an elephant but finally gave us a hen”

“The company promised an elephant but finally gave us a hen.” This is the metaphor that a villager living close to an immense agro-industrial plantation in northern Senegal employed to capture the gap between the commitments of the company and its actual achievements. This talk by Dr. Marie Gagné analyses the myriad pledges it has made to seduce the Senegalese state, local populations, and potential business partners through the concept of “regime of hope”.  Adapted from the sociology of expectations, this notion refers to instruments and processes that script and envision a better future yet to be realised.

Based on in-depth field research in Senegal conducted between 2013 and 2023, this presentation illustrates how grand hopes and broken promises have been a constitutive feature of the project under study, and how exclusion from its benefits—whether purported or real—has fueled opposition and feelings of injustice among a large share of the impacted communities. Depending on distinct localised political economies related to the respective importance of husbandry and agriculture for livelihoods, as well as proximity to the plantation, people have appraised the company’s anticipated effects differently.

The talk further shows that local responses are not only diverse but also labile, varying in response to the company’s display of power to control land. Disappointment was followed by renewed hope each time the company changed its management staff and owners. While the literature tends to assume that community responses are static, these evolutions highlight the need to consider large-scale land deals in the longue durée to fully understand the complexity and changing character of these responses.

This seminar is organised by the CRG Africa in the world - Rethinking Africa’s global connections

Photo: Company's Idle Irrigation Pivot (2018). Credits: Marie Gagné.

Marie Gagné received her PhD in Political Science from the University of Toronto. She previously held a Postdoctoral Fellowship awarded by the Fonds de recherche du Québec-Société et culture at Concordia University in Montreal. Her research interests include questions of land access, forest conservation, natural resource management, and agricultural development. More broadly, her work seeks to understand how global economic and political pressures are negotiated and experienced in often unexpected ways in rural locales of Africa. She has published several policy reports, book chapters, and peer-reviewed articles in journals such as the African Studies Review and the Journal of Development Studies.



Date, time and location

26 June 2024
Herta Mohr building, Witte Singel 27a, Leiden
room 0.31