Call for papers, workshop “Land, an interdisciplinary object of study between rupture and continuity”, 25-26 November 2016, Grenoble, France.

During the last few decades the spectacular growth of global demand
for natural resources has considerably increased the pressure on land
access and management across the world. From mobilisations against
fracking in the USA and Europe to opposition to mining and oil
extraction in Latin America, Asia and Africa, divers contexts attest
to an increase of social-environmental conflicts as a consequence of
current modes of soil and subsoil use. Land provides a base for
different regimes of property and patterns of use, as well as for
rural and urban social structures. Evolutions and major changes in
land use have stemmed legal debates such as those concerning big
estates, agrarian reforms or the adoption of extractive economic
strategies. While the former involve the issue of soil property, the
latter question sovereignty over the subsoil. The issue of land is
central to understanding socio-economical and political processes and
therefore constitutes a privileged perspective of analysis for current
global processes.

“Land”, as an object, is characterised by its interdisciplinarity.
Very early on, the importance of different social groups’ relationship
to land raised the interest of researchers in human and social
sciences. The works of early ethnologists inspired early XXth century
British anthropology (Malinowski (1935), Lucy Mair (1934 ; 1957)), who
brought attention the plurality of soil property and use systems. In
doing so, their work called into question the strict dichotomy between
collective and individual property, which marxist theory had so far
looked upon as a result of the capitalist accumulation process. Land
is therefore now considered through the lens of social organisation
(John Davis 1973 ; Gluckman 1965 ; Goody 1980 ; Humphreys 1983). In
historical research, forms of spatial appropriation and land tenure
have been analysed by the the Ecole des Annales and the field of rural
and urban history or history of tax systems (Bloch, Braudel (1979) ;
Le Roy Ladurie, 1966). In this same line or enquiry, american
historiography turned to land tenure systems in order to historicise
the process of State formation and social relations since the colonial
period. North American  processes of internal colonisation
(Shannon-Shafer Simler, 1930 ; Turner, 1962) and issues raised by the
Mexican revolution (Knight, 1986) are only two of many examples. Latin
America remains today one of the regions of the world where land
access is the most unequally shared. In the 1950s-1960s, at a time
when many governments were implementing land redistribution reforms,
the topic of land tenure, in the form of research on agrarian
structures and peasant movements, came to occupy an important role in
social sciences (Chevalier,1969 ; Piel, 1983). The the decolonisation
process also gave new relevance to land property studies in Africa and
Asia. In this context, geographers first started to bestow a new look
on the issues of territorial planning and agrarian structures in the
global south. Legal and development anthropology followed, taking
interest in local land rights, especially in sub saharan Africa, in
the context of so-called  « plans fonciers ruraux » (E. Le Bris, E. Le
Roy, F. Leimdorfer, 1982 ; P. Lavigne-Delville 1998).

Since the 1980s, researchers in social sciences have reconsidered the
scale of their focus, influenced by the circulations of globalization.
The last decades have seen the appearance of transnational studies,
entangled or connected histories (Werner, Zimmerman, 2004 ; Gruzinski,
2004 ; Saunier, 2009 ; Rodgers, 1998) that highlight the circulation
of people, knowledge and practices. (Espagne, 1994 ; Detienne, 2000).
Shifting scales allows to renew our perspective on both the national
and the local. Understood as one of the ways in which power is
wielded, space and resource management  raises the issue of how States
intervene on territories and plan their use as a way to structure the
social body (Foucault, 1976 ; Sécurité, territoire et population,
Cours au collège de France, 1978).  However, the role of the State has
to be studied in relation to new actors and institutions, ranging from
local inhabitants to “global governance” organizations (NGO, experts,
international organizations etc), as well as in the context of new
means of land tenure (norms, practices, etc.). Responding to those
changes, geographers have shifted to an approach in terms of “land
governance” that highlights new forms of interaction, regulation and
reglementation without hiding the power relations which underlie them.

This workshop aims to offer a contemporary reading of land-related
issues in a global perspective, to which we hope to provide insight
from both a conceptual and methodological point of view. We welcome
presentations on  modern and contemporary land issues, as well as on
their longue durée, with the objective of identifying forms of
continuity, discontinuity and rupture. The aim will also be to
identify individual and collective actors and their strategies, and to
question the representations they promote in order to bring out
underlying forms of power and knowledge.

This workshop will be dedicated to presentations of recent or ongoing
research, but also to making an inventory (as complete as possible) of
sources available on the field. It is meant to be a first step towards
the creation, on the long term, of a research group able to draw up a
several-year research project in France and abroad. Papers should
explore one of the four main themes, which we propose in order to
start the discussion. These four general topics have the advantage of
putting the issue of land at the heart of political practices:

1. Economic dynamics and land commodification : papers will focus on
tensions between economic “valorisation”, “natural resource
financiarisation” and access to land or other strategic resources.
Which are the economic/market logics and power relations which today
affect land property or the access and management of natural
resources? Who are the actors, the public or private institutions who
intervene? What is the role of the State in the management and
regulation of tensions? Proposals in this axis can also focus on the
spatial dimension of phenomena under study, as well as on the
relations between actors, in order to avoid presenting institutions,
such as markets or governmental organisations, as compact and coherent

2. Codification and legal practice of property regimes : papers will
deal with the legal dimension of land rights in different spaces and
at various scales, in order to analyse the actor networks at the
origin of legal systems. In these systems, which were themselves
constructed on major conflicts, and  marked by the adoption of the
cadastral principle and a challenge to collective property regimes,
what happens with the introduction of large-scale mining and
agricultural activities? How does law react, and at which scale(s)
does the relation between land/underground use and property evolve?
Papers can also focus on the circulation and competition of land
rights’ systems, by dealing for example with the legal
reconfigurations which emerge from lawsuits, stemming in turn from
“bottom-up” practices. Which is and which was the reactivity of law
faced with protest? Law also constructs new categories of
socio-political actors. How do populations appropriate the categories
elaborated by international law, such as indigeneity? How do they
bypass them by inventing or re-configuring other, “local” legal

3. Representations and social construction of resources : Processes of
economic “valorisation” often concern territories formerly marginal to
national identity and economy (rural territories, woodlands or
semi-desertic areas, highlands, border zones). The geographical and
socio-political marginality of these territories – and their
populations – was first translated by positivist liberal discourse
into a rhetoric of “unproductiveness”, “barbarity” and “empty
territories”, characterizations which under neoliberalism turn into
the language of poverty and underdevelopment. Far from unchanging,
these representations are historically constructed and are/were the
object of continuous negotiation, opposition and re-signification,
especially in the form of the global politics which the underlie.
Indigenous, peasant and alter-globalist struggles are illustrative
cases. Contributions to this panel could attempt to historicise
representations and their weight in terms of territorial and political
integration. Particular attention could also be devoted to
cartographical representation. To what extent does globalisation
reconfigure the margins and their representations? How do new
“centers” emerge? And finally, how are these representations
appropriated/opposed/reworked by local actors in favor or opposing
global dynamics?

4. Political uses of land : The fourth panel will aim to understand
how issues of land and resource extraction become (or don’t) the order
of the day at different levels of formal politics. Papers will focus
for example on the genesis of international norms following local
mobilisations, such the international indigenous rights movement
(Bellier 2013, 2014). The agenda-setting may come from protests and
social movements as well as from political parties, which present
themselves as the spokespersons of inter-class social groups. Such
mechanisms can be analysed from different angles : legal and social
approach to law, institutional analysis (debates within political
parties, parliamentary debates, government archives) or social
movement studies. Papers must avoid a purely descriptive perspective
limited, for example, to studying the place that land occupies in this
or that political program. Various research questions can be imagined
: How does the issue of land and extractives come to be at the heart
of the public debate? Which actors contribute to it and what are their
means to do so? As of what moment can we speak of public policy
concerning land property? And finally, are there forms of circulation,
cooperation, or re-appropriation of different “models”?

Mode of submission and deadline

Paper proposals (including a C.V, a title and a half-page abstract in
French, Spanish or English) must be sent by the 30th of  June 2016  to

Open to Videoconference.

Dates and location for the Workshop : 25-26 November 2016, Grenoble, France.

Organisation committee:

Maura Benegiamo (IUAV University Venice )

Ombeline Dagicour (University Paris 1 – Geneva University)

Irène Favier (University Grenoble Alpes)

Kyra Grieco (CERMA/Mondes Américains – EHESS, IFEA))

Emmanuelle Perez-Tisserant (CENA-EHESS)

Scientific committee :

Jeremy Adelman (Princeton University)

Claudia Damasceno (CRBC/Mondes Américains)

Sylvie Duvillard (Pacte/UGA)

Allan Greer (McGill University)

Marc Hufty (IHEID)

Geneviève Massard-Guilbaud (LARHRA)

Nadine Vivier (CERHIO)

Sandrine Tolazzi (ILCEA4)