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Land for whom? and, for what?: analyzing the continuities and discontinuities of the ‘Land Question(s)’ in the time of transitions

Many of both violent and non-violent conflicts we can observe today involve the struggle over land, its access, control, and use. They become visible in protests against large-scale land transactions or public demands for the restitution of land that was appropriated during colonialism, in the wake of violent conflict, and in regard to redistributive claims of social and environmental justice. Many people think of land as an existing piece of soil that can be owned, possessed, and exploited by individuals, companies, communities, or a state. However, land issues are intrinsically political and relate to social and economic structures and powers that give shape to the reality we live in: conflicts over land are conflicts over life itself. Land represents a network of relationships held in a particular space and time, and which give meaning to it; land appropriation, possession, dispossession, robbery, and grabbing are immersed in the core of social practices and values. In attention to this, within social and academic debates, the relationship between land and social phenomena, and the conflicts that derive from it, have been referred to as “The Land Question”. From Kenya to Colombia, India, Ireland, Ukraine, Palestine, and South Africa (among others), the “Land Question” has taken particular characteristics, causes, and consequences while sharing common elements that trace shared situations and claims that involve transitional processes. It's necessary, then, to understand the “Land Question” as plural and as one at the same time. Furthermore, it is necessary to understand that the conflicts that underlie such questions are dynamic and complex and that they go hand in hand with inequalities and violence and are present in multiple and plural societies with different shapes and characteristics. By asking land for what? And, for whom? In this course, we will comprehend land and society in relation to each other. We will explore the meaning attached to the “Land Question”, its elements of analysis, and the phenomena that it tries to make sense of. We will do so by approaching the topic through the study of cases across the world, identifying their context, elements, commonalities, and differences. By the end of the course, we will have mapped and puzzled a panoramic comprehension of land issues in the global network and the current dynamics of land possession and dispossession. We will end up understanding the dynamics and complexity of land conflicts, which students will be able to transfer to other research areas of their interest.


Dozent/inAngela María Sánchez Alfonso
SemesterSose 2023

Sose 2023