LOJK10290U Property Matters

Volume 2014/2015
Property matters! Competition for landed resources is intense virtually everywhere in the world today. Land and natural resources are fundamental for societal development, and often for individual livelihoods. Throughout history, access to and control over resources have formed central issues of social organization, economic growth, and political and legal control. This is no less true today.

In developing countries many people are directly dependant on access to resources for farming and other uses, and they are therefore directly affected – in positive and negative ways – when larger political and economic forces change the conditions on which resources are accessed. Moreover, developing societies are generally characterized by normative and legal pluralism. The stakes are therefore often high.

We often talk about conflicts as ‘land conflicts’ but there is always more at stake. It is never merely a question of land but a question of property, and social and political relationships in a very broad sense. Struggles over property are as much about the scope and constitution of authority as about access to resources. Claims, entitlements, and rights to resources are often contested and rife with conflict, just as authority and ability to define and enforce rules and rights regimes is struggled over by different institutions. Questions about property are therefore central to societal development and emerge in a wide variety of contexts, both as objects of direct policymaking and legal regulation, and as issues of power and politics in situations not controlled by any government. Property, and struggles over it, cuts through most social science disciplines. It is therefore important not to remain enclosed within one single analytical perspective, but to investigate how questions are framed and answered by different disciplines.

The course will deal with a series of issues and processes related to agrarian property questions in developing countries, including: the nature of a ‘right’, complexity, formal and informal property, exclusion, land reform, formalization, registration, evolution of rights, conflicts, political and legal institutions, conservation, land control, violence, territorialization, political movements and new enclosures.

The course is relevant for MSc students of Agricultural Economics, Global Environmental Governance, Geography, Anthropology, Development Studies and other interested in the political dynamics of property and law in developing societies.
Learning Outcome
Upon completing this course, the students should be able to:

Identify central actors, institutions, processes and norms involved in the social production of property.
Identify and compare different cultural and regional manifestations of property’s function in society.

Critically reflect on the concept of property and its different forms in different - especially agrarian - contexts in the developing world.
Understand and critically reflect on the multidimensional character of resource conflicts.
Critically reflect on central characteristics of formal and informal forms of property.

Analytically connect resource conflicts to conflicts over governance and state formation.
Account for and describe different political, legal, sociological and anthropological approaches to the analysis of property.
Required journal article and book readings provided on syllabus. Book chapters will be provided as pdf files to participants
The course will be a combination of lectures and student presentation of required and recommended texts. For some of the lectures there will also be films which will form the basis of general analytical discussions.
The texts are a mix of theoretical and empirical texts, and the cases are predominantly from Africa, Asia and Latin America. The compulsory reading is approximately 875 pages. This ‘leaves room’ for students to also read some of the suggested texts. The course also includes a number of films (some in excerpts). I believe that the historical, political, cultural and economic complexity of land issues is best comprehended through the combination of different media. The format of the course is flexible, yet it requires a high level of student participation. I will presume that the texts are read and that participants are well prepared. It is a good idea to prepare a brief note for each text (what is the argument, what is good and bad about it, and how could it inform your work?) for your own purposes. Paul Edwards (University of Michigan) has written a small (8 p.) very useful piece on How to read a book. Find it on http:/​/​utminers.utep.edu/​trcurry/​howtoread.pdf We will discuss a range of issues on the basis of a short introduction from me.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Colloquia
  • 32
  • Exam
  • 8
  • Lectures
  • 32
  • Preparation
  • 134
  • Total
  • 206
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Continuous assessment
The exam consists of •Assessment of the paper •Presentation of fellow student’s paper •Active participation in the common discussion
Exam registration requirements
Each student prepares a 1000 word essay on one (or several) of the text(s) (what is the argument, what is good and bad about it, and how can it inform your work). Each essay is presented by a fellow student and followed by brief general discussion.
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
One internal examiner
Written essay
Criteria for exam assesment
Fullfilment of Learning Outcome is required to obtain the grade 12