Dr. Oliveira published in the Routledge Handbook of Critical Resource Geography

Soy, Domestication, and Colonialism

Dr. Oliveira’s chapter “Soy, Domestication, and Colonialism” has just been accepted for publication in the Routledge Handbook of Critical Resource Geography, edited by Matthew Himley, Elizabeth Havice, and Gabriela Valdivia. The edited volume is forthcoming from Routledge.


Soy is one of the world’s most important crops by area, volume, and value. It is especially distinctive for serving as key nexus between food, livestock feed, fuel, and myriad industrial products. Its rapidly multiplying uses provide a powerful touchstone for analysis of how resources are not only created, but also constantly recreated and redesigned. In turn, these transformations reflect the shifting political ecological foundations that undergird resource creation – above all the territorial expansion of an extractive mode of production intimately associated with colonialism – and illustrate how resource-making processes generate new socio-ecological relations in their own image. This chapter begins with the historical interdependence of agriculture and colonialism, framing the domestication of plants as the archetype of resource-making. It then traces the cultivation of soybeans from its domestication and dispersal throughout present-day China through Han colonial expansion; through its early industrialization at the hands of Japanese colonizers of Korea and “Manchuria,” followed by US industrialists; to its key role in the contemporary colonization of South American hinterlands and its projected neo-colonial expansion across Africa and Asia. Finally, I critique the neo-natures created by transnational soy agribusiness through biotechnology, and the neo-colonial expansion of “Western” diets worldwide.

Keywords: soybeans, resource-making, world-making, environmental history, global political ecology

More information on the Routledge Handbook of Critical Resource Geography will be made available shortly.

Author’s original manuscript of the chapter available here.