Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name



Josef Korbel School of International Studies

First Advisor

Haider Khan, Ph.D.


Ecological imperialism, Ecologically unequal exchange, Ecological Marxism, Foreign investment in Africa, International political economy, Neoliberalization of the environment


This dissertation examines the issue of foreign investment in African resources from the theoretical perspective of ecological imperialism and ecologically unequal exchange theory (EUE). Pulling from Marxist ecology, critical political ecology, and an environmental reading of Polanyi, this dissertation seeks to theoretically deepen and clarify the concept of `ecological imperialism.' It posits that the wave of neoliberal policies that swept through the developing world in the 1980s can be interpreted as a historically distinct moment of ecological imperialism, a `counter-countermovement' to the era of economic nationalism that sought to bring developing world resources under state control. Focusing on Africa and a case-study on Tanzania, it examines the extent to which foreign investment regimes since Africa's colonial era reproduce a neocolonial situation whereby African political economic structures are subjugated for the `metabolic' needs of core economies, in a manner amenable to the ever expanding needs of capital accumulation. It also addresses the relation of ecological imperialism to one of the most currently important theories concerning global environmental inequalities, ecologically unequal exchange theory (EUE). Building on world-systems theory/dependency theory and integrating ecological economics, EUE theory holds that the global economy is characterized by unequal, asymmetrical transfers of ecosystem goods and services from developing to developed economies in a manner that systematically reproduces global environmental inequalities through the mechanism of international trade and foreign investment. This topic is central to issues of environmental justice and inequality, particularly in regards to North-South relations. In order to contribute to the ongoing empirical research agenda of EUE, the dissertation engages in a standardized empirical model known as an economy-wide material flows account (EW-MFA) for Tanzania over the years 1970-2010. EW-MFAs trace resource flows driven by economic activities and have been used to operationalize the concept of EUE. The dissertation finds that though MFAs have been widely used in EUE literature, they insufficiently capture many forms of environmental degradation that could be categorized as ecologically unequal exchange. This is particularly true for countries like Tanzania whose main exports are high-value, low-weight preciousities, as MFAs measure resource flows in physical weight. In sum, the dissertation argues for a comprehensive, nuanced, and non-reductionist approach to the issue of ecologically unequal exchange, and more broadly, to issues of ecological exploitation and environmental justice, one that examines unequal resource flows but also other potential forms of exploitation that can occur in the political economic and social dimension.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.


Received from ProQuest

Rights holder

Mariko Frame

File size

308 p.

File format





International relations, Environmental justice, African studies