Brian Klein’s paper, “Dina, domination, and Resistance: Indigenous Institutions, Local Politics, and Resource Governance in Madagascar,” won the Outstanding Article Award by the Cultural and Political Ecology (CAPE) Specialty Group of the American Association of Geographers (AAG). In his paper, Klein and his team investigate how Malagasy dina—local-level codes considered “customary law” in Madagascar—have been enrolled in competing projects of territorial production. In doing so, it engages in conversations regarding the mobilization of “indigenous” forms to stake claims and govern behavior on extractive frontiers. His work draws primarily on ethnographic evidence collected over 15 months of fieldwork in Betsiaka, a rural community in the country's far northwest. Klein shows how gold mining-specific dina has figured in local leaders’ struggles against state-corporate interventions, in external actors’ strategies of domination, and in intra-community contests between locals, migrants, and other factions seeking wealth and power in the diggings. In addition to showing how the Betsiaka Dina, in particular, has become a tool and target of territorialization, the article also traces the history and presence of Malagasy dina more generally, offering a comprehensive accounting of a ubiquitous yet understudied institutional form.

Klein is an assistant professor at the University of Michigan, jointly appointed in the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies (DAAS) and the Program in the Environment (PitE). In addition to his appointments, Klein has been an ASC research associate since 2020, serving as a reviewer for the U-M African Presidential Scholars (UMAPS) Program and as a member of the African Social Research Initiative (ASRI)’s Steering Committee.

As a political ecologist and critical human geographer interested in environmental governance, resource politics, and rural development in Africa, his research is centrally concerned with exploitation. By this, he means both the ways in which rural smallholders and communities manage, extract, and use natural resources for purposes of livelihood generation and social reproduction, as well as how various actors extract value from rural laborers through processes of expropriation and accumulation. He investigates these dynamics in resource frontier settings—“marginal” spaces often viewed and treated as peripheral, but arguably where the character and consequences of contemporary late capitalism are most apparent, alongside possibilities of resistance and ways of being otherwise.

He is currently working on a book manuscript tentatively titled “Everyday Exploitation: Extractive Autonomy and Accumulation by Articulation in the Mines of Madagascar. Everyday Exploitation” plays on the dual valences of “exploitation” to interrogate how Madagascar’s mineral fields are landscapes of both opportunity and vulnerability. Grounded in the diggings of Betsiaka, in Madagascar’s far northwest, the book examines the quotidian processes through which Malagasy artisanal miners pull gold from the ground and the mechanisms by which varying actors wring value from these rural laborers.

At the center of his work, he is committed to producing policy-relevant research informed by interdisciplinary analysis aimed at achieving more equitable and sustainable outcomes for smallholder resource extractors and rural communities—in Madagascar and across the globe.