Theses Doctoral

Calibrating States to Mobile Capital Guinea, International Lawyers, and Iron Ore

Kalm, Gustav

This dissertation examines how the legal structuring of foreign investment works as a mechanism of political domination. It focuses on two nodes in world economy—Paris and Guinea. I show that political authority in both places has been structured by private foreign capital all the while state-based jurisdictional arbitrage conditions transnational capital.

The dissertation is based on three sets of material. The centerpiece is an extended case study of so-far unrealized projects to mine iron ore in the Simandou mountain chain in Guinea. This is based on five months of ethnography in Guinea and the study of over fifteen thousand pages of documents that became public in the investor-state arbitral case BSGR vs. Guinea. Secondly, I rely on one year of ethnography with investment arbitration and project finance lawyers and investment promotion milieus in Paris, especially regarding Africa-directed investments. Finally, the dissertation draws on diverse archives and secondary literature to document the longer history of foreign investment.

I draw on and contribute to three separate literatures : (a) work on legal techniques and market devices within Social Studies of Finance; (b) studies of regulatory diversity and uneven development in world economy; (c) empirical studies of moral economies of ordinary economic setups.

The first chapter shows how transnational property ownership was conceived as foreign capital between 1870 and 1960 but became to be understood as foreign investment after 1960 shifting the emphasis from foreign ownership to foreigners’ contribution to domestic development. The second chapter studies how foreign investment has come to be seen a major tool for economic development and betterment based on ethnography at investment promotion events and visions of professional excellence of investment intermediaries.

Chapters three and four focus on the Simandou case study. Chapter three tells how the Simandou mining contracts were negotiated and how through recourse to stabilization and investment arbitration clauses and integration of English and French law these investor-state contracts partially disembedded Guinean mineral resources from state sovereignty to become international financial assets. The fourth chapter shows how different overlapping ways to structure property over the Simandou mountain chain and its iron ore reserves were unequally scalable with investor-state arbitration backed permits being more easily convertible financial assets than land control via the host-stranger settlement paradigm. This allowed international mining companies to earn financial benefits from holding their Guinean mining titles as foreign property while presenting them as foreign investment.

Geographic Areas


This item is currently under embargo. It will be available starting 2029-03-01.

More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Larkin, Brian
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
March 13, 2024