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28 February 2024

LARRI Webinar: Rethinking Land Tenure Security, with Professor Laura German

Photo: Phil Dolby / flickr.

 In the first LARRI Webinar of 2024, Professor Laura German, Professor in Anthropology and Director of The University of Georgia’s Center for Integrative Conservation Research, will present from her recently published book ”Power/Knowledge/Land – Contested Ontologies of Land and Its Governance in Africa”. She will argue that concepts related to land governance often masquerade as universal and self-evident truths and need to be provincialized. To illustrate this argument, she will contrast the way that tenure (in)security is described in development interventions with ethnographic evidence about tenure (in)security from across the African continent. Furthermore, she will point out broader considerations in relation to such (in)security including (i) the challenges of cross-cultural translation not least the use of western constructs as an interpretive frame; (ii) the adaptive function of customary tenures and their relevance in the face of climate change; (iii) the linkages between land governance and power relations; (iv) how the coloniality of knowledge factors in and finally; (iv) the need to re-consider interventionism itself. 

Commentator: Dr. Emmanuel Sulle is Regional Coordinator for East Africa and Horn of Africa with the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) and a highly dedicated and long-time researcher on land governance in Tanzania. 


Watch it here:


About the book:

The 2008 outcry over the “global land grab” made headlines around the world, and has led to sustained interest among both academics and the international development establishment. In Power/Knowledge/Land, author Laura German profiles the consolidation of a global knowledge regime surrounding land and its governance within international development circles following the outcry over “global land grabs,” and the growing enrollment of previously antagonistic actors within it. Drawing theoretical insights from ontological anthropology and decolonial theory and deploying pioneering analytical techniques inspired by the politics of knowledge, German reveals the inner mechanics of a global knowledge regime that has enabled the longstanding project of commodifying customary land to be advanced by capturing the energies of socially progressive forces. By bringing theories of change from the emergent land governance orthodoxy into dialogue with the ethnographic evidence from across the African continent and beyond, concepts masquerading as universal and self-evident truths are provincialized, and their role in commodifying customary land and entrenching colonial futurities put on display. In doing so, the volume brings wider academic debates surrounding productive forms of power into the heart of the land grab debate, while enhancing their accessibility to a wider audience.

Power/Knowledge/Land takes current scholarly debates surrounding land grabs beyond their theoretical moorings in critical agrarian studies, political economy and globalization into contemporary debates surrounding the politics of knowledge—from decolonial theory to ontological anthropology, thereby enabling new dynamics of the phenomenon to be revealed. German also takes a deep look at global knowledge brokers and dynamics in international development, complementing a large body of scholarship on the political economy of land grabs and their situated agrarian dynamics. The book deploys a pioneering epistemology integrating deconstructionist tools of discourse analysis with comparative study and systematic qualitative reviews to hold dominant knowledge and truth claims surrounding theories of change in international development circles against the ethnographic evidence—from situated property relations and ontologies of land, to the impacts of land governance interventions. This helps to reveal the Western and modernist biases in the narratives that have been advanced about women, custom, and security, revealing how the coloniality of knowledge underpins political economies of land.


 Contact: Margareta Espling; Robin Biddulph 


From 28 February 2024 at 15:00 to 28 February 2024 at 17:00


Online, zoom