EPD Research Director Awarded Prestigious Fulbright Grant

Peter Jacobs has been awarded the prestigious 2017 Fulbright Grant for research scholars. The grant allows him to consolidate more than a decade of his studies on land reform into a book manuscript. For the six months of the Fulbright fellowship, which begins at the end of January 2017, he will be based at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore to complete his new book project.

What merit is there for yet another book on the well-researched land question in South Africa? In what ways will the planned manuscript break new grounds?

It is puzzling why the land question still commands public attention in rapidly industrialising and urbanising countries. The reasons for this situation are diverse and deserve closer investigation. The most compelling arguments derive from increasing concentration of land ownership even though formal commitments to equitable land distribution exist. Trends show that a shrinking number of individuals or corporations own more land, in absolute and relative terms. Conflicts over widening land inequalities, in turn, often spill over into widespread political conflicts or ignite social revolutions.

What are the drivers of this polarised control over land? How do these drivers of land inequalities compare across different countries, past and present? Where does the South African case fit into these experiences? These are compelling but tough questions that are certainly worth thinking through in more than just one book – perhaps several volumes.

But the significance of this initiative goes beyond rethinking the political economy of the land question. What does the Fulbright award mean for the international dimension of Peter’s research profile? Receiving this competitive international fellowship lifts his profile to new heights. It is an opportunity for him to strengthen cooperation with leading scholars at Johns Hopkins University, especially colleagues studying global land and labour issues at the Arrighi Center for Global Studies. Moreover, this initiative should improve his chances of obtaining a higher researcher rating from the National Research Foundation when that assessment is due in future.

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