Over the past decade, the rise of what has been called the Global Land Grab suggests the return of rural development as a privileged (if problematic) site for accumulation, modernization, and growth. In this paper, I analyze a set of rural development efforts in Mozambique, a country seen by many as the potential heart of a new African food regime. I build a framework for understanding contemporary dynamics by drawing on the triple metaphor of fields: first, I build on the sociological concept of field as strategic social space; second, I bring together disparate disciplinary fields, including political economy, development, science and technology studies, and agrarian studies; and third, I situate the paper on fields as cultivated ground, the literal arena in and on which rural development takes place. The paper is narrated through four stories that illuminate the relationships and dynamics within and across different “strategic action fields.” These stories highlight the role of knowledge and power within distinct but related arenas of rural development and suggest the importance of seeing fields as in contestation even when they are not necessarily in conversation.

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