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On the codification of land in transnational law: from the colonial encounter to current conflicts over land use

Many of both violent and non-violent conflicts we can observe today involve the struggle over land (and its use). They become visible in protests against large scale land transactions or public demands for the restitution of land that was appropriated during colonialism or in the wake of violent conflict. The regulation of land transactions and land use has also become a subject of global governance. Many people think of land as an existing piece of soil that can be owned, possessed, and exploited by individuals, companies or a state. In order to understand conflicts over land however, we need to acknowledge that there are and have been different ways to relate to land. Land represents a network of relationships that are held in a particular space and time, and which give meaning to it. From the colonial encounter to current societies, the legal codification of land has played a central role in mediating and shaping these relationships. The most salient example is maybe the creation of private property in land that resulted in the enclosure of the commons in European countries, a precondition for a capitalist exploitation of land (Pistor 2019). We can also think of the concept of “terra nullius” in International Law, through which European colonizers legalized violent land seizures in the colonies (Anghi 2005). The workings of law have consequently translated, configured, produced, and reproduced land in different ways. In this course we want to comprehend how law has codified land and changed the way we relate to it across time. We analyze the link between the legal codification of law and social, economic, and political processes in different contexts. We ask: how is land understood in different, situated moments? What is the role of law in shaping these conceptions and how to they affect social relations? Who is given access to land and who is being excluded, on what grounds and by which means? [how we will be working] The course will be taught in English and is open to students of politics and law. This course combines conceptual work and empirical case studies. We will work both in plenary sessions and in small groups. Students will be expected to engage with theoretical literature and will be asked to carry out research on current land conflicts. While no previous knowledge in law is required, students from the social sciences should be willing to engage with literature on law and legal concepts. Similarly, law students should bring an interest in socio-legal approaches to law. [what you will learn] At the end of the course, you will have an overview over the multiple ways in which the legal codification of land has shaped social, economic, and political relations, thereby organizing access to land as well as contemporary dynamics of possession and dispossession. You will have an understanding of existing approaches to analyzing the role of law in society, which you will be able to transfer of other research areas of your interest. [selection of relevant literature] Anghi, Antony (2005): Imperialism, Sovereignty and the Making of International law. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Bastias Saavedra, Manuel (2018): The Lived Space: Possession, Ownership, and Land Sales on the Chilean Frontier (Valdivia, 1790-1830). In: Hist. Crit. (67), S. 3–21. Bhandar, Brenna (2018): Colonial lives of property. Law, land, and racial regimes of ownership. Durham: Duke University Press (Global and insurgent legalities). Dugard, Jackie; Ngwenya, Makale (2019): Property in a time of transition: An examination of perceptions, navigations and constructions of property relations among unlawful occupiers in Johannesburg’s inner city. In: Urban Studies 56 (6), S. 1165–1181. Ince, Onur Ulas (2018): Colonial capitalism and the Dilemmas of Liberalism. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. John Locke (2015): The Second Treatise of Government: (An Essay Concerning the true original, extent and end of civil government), and, a letter concerning toleration (1690): Broadview Press. Karl Marx (1867): Capital: A critique of political economy. Volume 1 (Chapter 27). New York: Cosimo (1). Keenan, Sarah (2010): Subversive Property: Reshaping Malleable Spaces of Belonging. In: Social & Legal Studies 19 (4), S. 423–439. Nichols, Robert (2020): Theft Is Property! Dispossession and Critical Theory. Durham: Duke University Press. Pistor, Katharina (2019): The code of capital. How the Law Creates Wealth and Inequality. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. Tania Murray Li (2014): What is land? Assembling a resource for global investment. In: Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 39 (4), S. 589–602.


Dozent/inDr. Hannah Franzki, Angela María Sánchez Alfonso
SemesterWise 2022/23

Wise 2022/23