From Territory to Landscape: Tracing Land Transformations in a Special Economic Zone

The presentation delves into the terrain upon which the industrial development of a contemporary industrial park in Bulgaria takes place, exploring three distinct perspectives on territory, land, and landscape. Although terms such as land, territory, space, or terrain are often used interchangeably, they are ultimately distinct and need to be conceptually distinguished, as argued by John Elder. The presentation commences with a description of land as an industrial territorial development, driven by the private initiative of a real-estate company. It outlines how their vision for industrial expansion on agricultural land was implemented with the support of political, financial, and advisory actors. The rapid expansion of global production space in the region of Plovdiv poses both challenges and opportunities for conceptualizing the relationship between global infrastructure and the local environment.
The second part of the talk focuses on the specific land of Industrial Park Kuklen. It conceptualizes land as a “relation to property, a finite resource that is distributed, allocated, and owned—a political-economic question.” The paper traces the history of land ownership, transactions, and management as a finite resource subject to competition. However the paper does not only discuss land in Marxist tradition of understanding land as a commodity in a capitalist production but also traces the geological history of the earth by collectively analysing the soil transformations and historical pastoral practices, resulting from human activities.
The third part concentrates on the landscape produced by the spontaneous natural reactions of the soil and the controlled design of the factory space. It aims to position the landscape of global production spaces as a ground for observing the patterns of human and nonhuman assemblages. The idea is to create a phenomenological understanding of how landscape forms to allow multispecies histories to come into view. Thus, the paper paints a multilayered picture of a special economic zone, challenging the notion that large-scale infrastructure spaces are built on a tabula-rasa ground and are only ruled by dominant economic and political aspects.