Date of Completion


Embargo Period



international human rights postcolonial transnational feminism corporations business

Major Advisor

Kristin Kelly

Associate Advisor

Zehra Arat

Associate Advisor

Heather Turcotte

Field of Study

Political science


Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Campus Access


The wave of large-scale, transnational acquisitions of agricultural land in the Global South in recent years has raised concerns about the adverse human rights consequences of these land deals. The responses of several international organizations include the creation of multiple responsible agricultural investment codes that seek to take a multi-stakeholder, human rights approach to regulating these transactions and ensuring corporate accountability. The codes have been met with mixed reactions, raising questions of if, and how, the codes can be effective in regulating transnational corporations. In contrast to the focus on human rights legalization in much of the academic literature on a human rights approach to corporate accountability, this project employs postcolonial and transnational feminist theoretical frameworks to analyze and deconstruct discourses presented in the codes with regard to the role of transnational corporations. While the codes encourage transnational corporations to be more active in the governance of land deals, this analysis finds that the codes obscure the role such corporations play in the (re)production and maintenance of uneven global relations of power and social hierarchies. As such, the codes elide the relative capacities of transnational corporations to shape the global circulation of discourses and materials, and thus their contribution to (de)humanization processes. Moreover, this analysis calls into question the assertion in the codes that the protection of land rights necessarily results in the protection of human rights. Critical examination of this narrative reveals that the relationship of specific actors to the land in question varies considerably, producing different definitions of property. This work argues that the definition of property plays a crucial role in recognizing human rights impacts and rightful claimants. However, the call for an augmented role for transnational corporations in the governance of land deals is not accompanied by a sufficient recognition of their role in defining property, which consequently obfuscates the relationship between competing claims for land and human rights. As such, this work calls for further analysis of international recommendations for the conduct of transnational corporations, and particularly their contributions to the global circulation of materials and discourses that define the “human” and circumscribe property rights.