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Access and Property: A Question of Power and Authority


  • Thomas Sikor,

    1. is Senior Lecturer in Development Studies at the University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ, UK. His research examines resource property, governance and institutions with a geographical interest in post-socialist countries, including empirical studies in Albania, Romania and Vietnam.
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  • Christian Lund

    1. is Professor in International Development Studies at Roskilde University, PO Box 260, DK-4000 Roskilde, Denmark. His most recent works include Local Politics and the Dynamics of Property in Africa (CUP, 2008) and Twilight Institutions: Public Authority and Local Politics in Africa (Blackwell, 2007).
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  • The articles in this issue of Development and Change originate from a researcher training workshop jointly organized by the Junior Research Group on Postsocialist Land Relations, Humboldt University Berlin, and the Graduate School of International Development Studies, Roskilde University, in late 2006. Funding for the workshop was provided by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft and Roskilde University. We thank Sara Berry, Anne Larson and three anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments on this introductory essay. This essay has also benefited from very stimulating discussions with the workshop participants and contributors to this issue.


In this introduction we argue that access and property regarding natural resources are intimately bound up with the exercise of power and authority. The process of seeking authorizations for property claims also has the effect of granting authority to the authorizing politico-legal institution. In consequence, struggles over natural resources in an institutionally pluralist context are processes of everyday state formation. Through the discussion of this theoretical proposition we point to legitimizing practices, territoriality and violence as offering particular insights into the recursively constituted relations between struggles over access and property regarding natural resources, contestations about power and authority, and state formation.