The Agrarian Roots of Contemporary Violent Conflict in Mindanao, Southern Philippines

Authors

  • SIETZE VELLEMA,

    Corresponding author
    1. Technology and Agrarian Development group, Wageningen University, The Netherlands
      Sietze Vellema, Assistant Professor, Technology and Agrarian Development group, Wageningen University, Hollandseweg 1, 6706 KN Wageningen, The Netherlands. E-mail: sietze.vellema@wur.nl Saturnino M. Borras Jr., Associate Professor of Rural Development Studies, International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam (ISS), Kortenaerkade 12, 2518AX The Hague, The Netherlands. E-mail: borras@iss.nl Francisco Lara Jr., Philippine country director, Alert International UK, Philippine Social Science Center (PSSC), Commonwealth Avenue, Diliman, Quezon City 1104, Philippines; Research Associate, Crisis States Research Centre, London School of Economics, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE, UK. E-mail: F.Lara-jr@lse.ac.uk
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  • SATURNINO M. BORRAS JR,

    Corresponding author
    1. International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam (ISS), The Netherlands
      Sietze Vellema, Assistant Professor, Technology and Agrarian Development group, Wageningen University, Hollandseweg 1, 6706 KN Wageningen, The Netherlands. E-mail: sietze.vellema@wur.nl Saturnino M. Borras Jr., Associate Professor of Rural Development Studies, International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam (ISS), Kortenaerkade 12, 2518AX The Hague, The Netherlands. E-mail: borras@iss.nl Francisco Lara Jr., Philippine country director, Alert International UK, Philippine Social Science Center (PSSC), Commonwealth Avenue, Diliman, Quezon City 1104, Philippines; Research Associate, Crisis States Research Centre, London School of Economics, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE, UK. E-mail: F.Lara-jr@lse.ac.uk
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  • FRANCISCO LARA JR

    Corresponding author
    1. Alert International UK, Philippine Social Science Center (PSSC), and Crisis States Research Centre, London School of Economics, UK
      Sietze Vellema, Assistant Professor, Technology and Agrarian Development group, Wageningen University, Hollandseweg 1, 6706 KN Wageningen, The Netherlands. E-mail: sietze.vellema@wur.nl Saturnino M. Borras Jr., Associate Professor of Rural Development Studies, International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam (ISS), Kortenaerkade 12, 2518AX The Hague, The Netherlands. E-mail: borras@iss.nl Francisco Lara Jr., Philippine country director, Alert International UK, Philippine Social Science Center (PSSC), Commonwealth Avenue, Diliman, Quezon City 1104, Philippines; Research Associate, Crisis States Research Centre, London School of Economics, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE, UK. E-mail: F.Lara-jr@lse.ac.uk
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  • We would like to thank Chris Cramer and Paul Richards, as well as the peer reviewer for the Journal, for their helpful comments and suggestions on earlier versions of the paper. The discussion on the ‘underground economy’ in Mindanao and related parts is drawn from Chapter 4 of Lara's forthcoming PhD dissertation.

Sietze Vellema, Assistant Professor, Technology and Agrarian Development group, Wageningen University, Hollandseweg 1, 6706 KN Wageningen, The Netherlands. E-mail: sietze.vellema@wur.nl Saturnino M. Borras Jr., Associate Professor of Rural Development Studies, International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam (ISS), Kortenaerkade 12, 2518AX The Hague, The Netherlands. E-mail: borras@iss.nl Francisco Lara Jr., Philippine country director, Alert International UK, Philippine Social Science Center (PSSC), Commonwealth Avenue, Diliman, Quezon City 1104, Philippines; Research Associate, Crisis States Research Centre, London School of Economics, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE, UK. E-mail: F.Lara-jr@lse.ac.uk

Abstract

The decades-old conflict in Mindanao, southern Philippines, is often framed as a Muslim–Christian conflict and reinterpreted as such within the US-led global war on terror, with the Muslim secessionist movement standing accused of providing a hub for international jihad. In the meantime, global economic integration has made it easier to ignore the agrarian roots of violent conflict in Mindanao, enabling national and sub-national actors, including the international community and the Muslim or Moro separatists, to dismiss the issue of agrarian justice. We counter these arguments by using an agrarian political economy framework to uncover the roots of resilient violence in Mindanao, using historical narratives of the region from the end of the nineteenth century that accentuate the links between state-making, control of land and labour, and processes of agrarian modernization. We emphasize the critical role played by the Muslim landed elites who shaped processes of state-making by brokering the interests of their clans with exogenous actors at the national and international level. We shed light on emerging state policies and competing interests among other landed and agribusiness elites that resulted in the spread of a parallel underground economy, renewing opportunities for violence and crime within semi-autonomous social worlds.

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