African Extraction, Indian Ocean Critique

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Sharad Chari


South Atlantic Quarterly, Volume 114, p.83–100 (2015)



A moral frenzy surrounds Chinese and Indian capital in Africa, particularly in resource and mineral extraction. There are some good reasons for this fear and loathing about “African extraction”—the plundering of Africa and its resources—as the related processes all too often offer few benefits to the peoples and environs involved. In fact, we know little about the uneven processes of extractive accumulation on the ground and their potential for something we might defensibly call “development.” Asian circuits of capital allow us to pry open some verities about African states and processes of social change. As Indian and Chinese circuits of capital, labor, and expertise work through enclaves of extractive accumulation, postcolonial archetypes, like the gatekeeper state, are reconfigured into new forms of secured enclaves. This article considers the possibilities of progressive development in this brave new world of enclaved capitalisms by exploring how Indian and Chinese capital draws from very different Asian legacies in its passage to Africa’s diverse extractive economies. This Asian critique of African extraction fundamentally questions the efficacy of the trinity of extraction, logistics, and finance harnessed to a fantasy of logistical biopower in service of capital. Rather, Asian circuits of capital in Africa call attention to new, uneven geographies of accumulation, accountability, and struggle.

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