Cadastral Desire: Colonialism, Capitalism, and Landscape on Nineteenth Century Zanzibar

Sarah K. Croucher (Wesleyan University)
3/19/2014

In this talk I explore the capitalist landscapes of Zanzibari clove plantations in the late nineteenth century. These were longstanding spaces of capitalist production, founded largely by Omani colonists utilizing enslaved African labor. But by the late nineteenth century British colonial rule was growing on the islands and colonial administrators stationed on the islands continually articulated their desire for an orderly landscape of capitalist production, which in turn would modernize and expand their income from taxation. However, ideas of cadastral survey remained only in the realm of desire. Omani plantation owners had no interest in such cartographic imaginaries, managing to deal with land ownership through radically different ways of understanding the landscape. In exploring British colonial desires I highlight the frail nature of European rule in this context, and the manner in which such desires also help us to understand broader subjectivies of landscapes on nineteenth-century Zanzibar.

*Co-sponsored by the African Studies Center

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