Author(s): Pauline E. Peters
Publication details: Journal of Agrarian Change, Vol. 4 No. 3, July, pp. 269–314,2004
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The paper proposes that reports of pervasive competition and conflict overland in sub-Saharan Africa belie a current image of negotiable and adaptive customary systems of landholding and land use but, instead, reveal processes of exclusion, deepening social divisions and class formation.
Cases of ambiguous and indeterminate outcomes among claimants over land do occur, but the instances of intensifying conflict over land, deepening social rifts and expropriation of land beg for closer attention.
More emphasis needs to be placed by analysts on who benefits and who loses from instances of ‘negotiability’ in access to land, an analysis that, in turn, needs to be situated in broader political, economic and social changes taking place, particularly during the past thirty or so years.
This requires a theoretical move away from privileging contingency,flexibility and negotiability that, willy-nilly, ends by suggesting an open field, to one that is able to identify those situations and processes (including com-modification, structural adjustment, market liberalisation and globalisation) that limit or end negotiation and flexibility for certain social groups or categories.
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