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Keywords:

  • commons;
  • indigenous peoples;
  • Nicaragua;
  • North Atlantic Autonomous Region;
  • political ecology

In north-eastern Nicaragua, territorial titling of communal lands conflates particular notions of ethnicity with proprietary conceptions of space to generate new forms of conflict within and between indigenous and black communities, and with mestizo migrants. Notions of rights between competing groups, or within conflicting normative frameworks, become increasingly polemic during demarcation. While analysis of three land titling case studies demonstrates that results are socially contingent and place based, trends include: (a) power disparities; (b) tension between ‘traditional’ and ‘modern’ patterns of land tenure and resource rights; and (c) contradictions fed by international conservation agendas and neoliberal economic reforms. Combining critical actor-based analysis with practical policy critique our work illuminates how contestations over the bounding of communal territories contribute to social injustice.