I acknowledge the scholarship of all those whose work I draw on here. In particular, I wish to acknowledge two people with whom I have engaged over several years on the topic of this paper, and who have given me inspiration and encouragement, even when we disagree: Sara Berry and Henry Bernstein. Thanks too to Henry Bernstein for comments on earlier drafts and his editorial input.
Inequality and Social Conflict Over Land in Africa
Article first published online: 3 JUN 2004
Journal of Agrarian Change
Volume 4, Issue 3, pages 269–314, July 2004
How to Cite
PETERS, P. E. (2004), Inequality and Social Conflict Over Land in Africa. Journal of Agrarian Change, 4: 269–314. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-0366.2004.00080.x
- Issue published online: 3 JUN 2004
- Article first published online: 3 JUN 2004
- land relations;
- land tenure;
- social conflict;
- resource competition;
- class formation
The paper proposes that reports of pervasive competition and conflict over land 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 liberalization and globalization) that limit or end negotiation and flexibility for certain social groups or categories.