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Changing Properties of Property

Changing Properties of Property

Franz von Benda-Beckmann
Keebet von Benda-Beckmann
Melanie G. Wiber
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 376
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  • Book Info
    Changing Properties of Property
    Book Description:

    As an important contribution to debates on property theory and the role of law in creating, disputing, defining and refining property rights, this volume provides new theoretical material on property systems, as well as new empirically grounded case studies of the dynamics of property transformations. The property claimants discussed in these papers represent a diverse range of actors, including post-socialist states and their citizens, those receiving restitution for past property losses in Africa, Southeast Asia and in eastern Europe, collectives, corporate and individual actors. The volume thus provides a comprehensive anthropological analysis not only of property structures and ideologies, but also of property (and its politics) in action.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-528-4
    Subjects: Law, Anthropology, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Maps, Figures and Tables
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Chapter 1 The Properties of Property
    (pp. 1-39)
    Franz von Benda-Beckmann, Keebet von Benda-Beckmann and Melanie G. Wiber

    Property is in. The media follows debates about patenting food crops and the human genome, while protesters around the world reject neoliberal privatisation. Academics and policy theorists tout various property forms, while the market turns ever more things into commodities. Throughout history, property has been at the centre of such intellectual, economic and political struggles. A number of recent developments force us to take a renewed look at property. One is the rapid increase in new types of properties, including social security rights, tradable environmental allowances, bioinformatics, cultural property and even such ephemeral things as air. Another development is the...

  5. Chapter 2 Ownership in Stateless Places
    (pp. 40-57)
    Charles Geisler

    First among the properties of Western property is its embeddedness in state law, authority and sovereignty. Failed property systems, we are told, are a hallmark of weak states. For many, property without the state is an oxymoron; the state is the ultimate guarantor and trustee of property. This canon is the parent property of property. It typically reads as follows (Hackworth 1940: 465–66): ‘Ownership, in its essential features … is secured to the owner under the authority of the Government exercising the right of sovereignty …’ (cited in Pop 2000: 278).

    As the introductory essay to this volume suggests,...

  6. Chapter 3 The Romance of Privatisation and its Unheralded Challengers: Case Studies from English, Russian, Soviet and Post-Soviet History
    (pp. 58-83)
    Esther Kingston-Mann

    In every culture, there are values so widely accepted that they are rarely discussed. They are ‘what everybody knows’ and require no explanation. That private tenure enhances economic performance is one such axiomatic belief, repeatedly validated – in the eyes of a wide range of Western economists, philosophers, historians, poets, policy makers, and progressives of the Right and Left – in every time and place. This paper explores the link between private tenure and economic performance – not as an axiomatic truth, but as a hypothesis to be tested. It will further consider the possibility that axioms, however useful, may...

  7. Chapter 4 Beyond Embeddedness: a Challenge Raised by a Comparison of the Struggles Over Land in African and Post-socialist Countries
    (pp. 84-105)
    Pauline E. Peters

    The premise of this paper is that there are intriguing parallels in the current debates and social processes surrounding property in land in the post-colonial countries in Africa and those in post-socialist countries.¹ Despite the obvious differences of history and culture (not to speak of climate, types of production, and so forth), current similarities include the following. Interpretation of current change is being discussed in terms of ‘transition’ – in the post-socialist case from state-centric, communist regimes to democratic, market systems, and in many African countries from one-party dictatorships and (often ineffective) centralised economic controls to multi-party democratic, market systems....

  8. Chapter 5 Land as Asset, Land as Liability: Property Politics in Rural Central and Eastern Europe
    (pp. 106-125)
    Thomas Sikor

    Post-socialist land reforms have offered many people in Central and Eastern Europe the opportunity to become land owners. People have readily seized on the opportunity, lodging formal claims on land. They expend significant effort to recoup historical land holdings, acquire new parcels, and influence land privatisation processes. They invoke various social and moral values to justify their claims on land against competing claims, to influence allocation procedures, and to win court cases. Once they have received land titles, they struggle to translate the newly acquired legal rights into practice, fighting the constraints on machinery services, input supplies, output marketing, and...

  9. Chapter 6 Property, Labour Relations and Social Obligations in Russia’s Privatised Farm Enterprises
    (pp. 126-146)
    Oane Visser

    Market oriented land reform and farm privatisation was started in Russia in the early 1990s, with two broad goals.¹ First, these property reforms were seen as the solution to the inefficiency of the Soviet farms (World Bank 1992). Second, the reforms were intended to empower the rural population, by making them landowners and giving them influence as shareholders in their farm enterprise (World Bank 1992). It is widely acknowledged that the economic effects of these radical legal property changes have been disappointing (Humphrey 1998; Spoor and Visser 2001, 2004). In the 1990s the production on the farm enterprises (the large-scale...

  10. Chapter 7 Cooperative Property at the Limit
    (pp. 147-169)
    John R. Eidson

    Given the central and controversial status of property in political philosophy, law, economy and society, it is probably inevitable that anthropological analyses of property relations often contain a strong dose of cultural criticism. For reasons illuminated by Pauline Peters in her contribution to this volume, this is especially true of the recent literature on developments in post-colonial and post-socialist settings, where anthropologist have to contend with those peddling privatisation as the cure to all economic and societal woes. All too often, it seems, the programmes that are supposed to promote political stability and spur economic growth are based on oversimplified...

  11. Chapter 8 Who Owns the Fisheries? Changing Views of Property and Its Redistribution in Post-colonial Maori Society
    (pp. 170-193)
    Toon van Meijl

    In recent years the New Zealand government has developed a rather progressive policy to redress the grievances of the country’s indigenous population, the Maori, about the dispossession of their land and natural resources in the nineteenth century. It has signed several compensation settlements with Maori tribal organisations that have entailed the return of significant sections of lands and natural resources as well as monetary payments. The settlement process, however, is rather controversial for two reasons. First, the government negotiates settlements only with tribal organisations, whereas 80 percent of the Maori population is currently living in urban environments in which tribal...

  12. Chapter 9 How Communal is Communal and Whose Communal is It? Lessons from Minangkabau
    (pp. 194-217)
    Franz von Benda-Beckmann and Keebet von Benda-Beckmann

    In most literature on property, communal property figures as one of the four major categories, besides private individual ownership, state ownership and open access. These categories are building stones in the construction of theoretical propositions concerning the evolution of property rights and of the relationships between property types and their economic and/or ecological significance.¹ ‘Communal’ or ‘common’ property is perhaps the most general and most misleading concept pervading interpretations of property systems, academic theories and policies. It has had mainly negative economic and civilisational connotations ever since the nineteenth century. Individual private ownership was taken as an important indicator of...

  13. Chapter 10 Moving Borders and Invisible Boundaries: a Force Field Approach to Property Relations in the Commons of a Mexican ejido
    (pp. 218-242)
    Monique Nuijten and David Lorenzo

    This chapter presents an analysis of property relations in the common lands of anejidoin Western Mexico. In contrast to the arable land, which was immediately divided into individual plots, the mountainous lands thatejidosreceived during the Mexican land reform remained under communal regimes of governance. In many cases no formal regulation for the use of these commons was made. In the study that is presented in this chapter, we examine what happened with these common lands in oneejido, La Canoa, in Western Mexico. We show how property relations developed over time in a situation where no...

  14. Chapter 11 ‘The Tragedy of the Private’: Owners, Communities and the State in South Africa’s Land Reform Programme
    (pp. 243-268)
    Deborah James

    The distribution of property, as many of the papers in the present volume suggest, lies at the heart of debates over equity and social justice. This is particularly true at moments of political change when former property regimes are critically scrutinised and reforms proposed. In such settings, a debate of several centuries’ standing is continually replayed: between those viewing private property rights as the foundation of society’s economic and civil order and those advocating the restriction of private property in order to secure it for the ‘public good’ (Hann 1998: 13).

    A modern-day version of this dispute is being played...

  15. Chapter 12 The Folk Conceptualisation of Property and Forest-related Going Concerns in Madagascar
    (pp. 269-292)
    Frank Muttenzer

    Property relations of the use and control of forest resources in Madagascar are a consequence of two kinds of pluralism. The first is a pluralism of social organisation and the forms of agency these organisations imply. It opposes direct users or producers in the village against formal economic agents such as collectors of local produce and trading firms, the forest and territorial administrations representing the state, conservation or development projects of bilateral and multilateral donors, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and local offices of international organisations. The other kind is legal pluralism, with several independent normative orders that apply to the same...

  16. Chapter 13 Property Rights, Water and Conflict in the Western U.S.
    (pp. 293-308)
    Edella Schlager

    Water is scarce in the western United States. Unlike states in the eastern United States, which averages between twenty and thirty-two inches of annual rainfall in Minnesota, or fourty-six and sixty-six inches in Georgia, most parts of the western U.S. average between eight and twenty inches of moisture per year (Western Regional Climate Center 2001). Such contrasting differences in rainfall are reflected in equally contrasting differences in property rights systems governing the allocation and use of water in streams and rivers. In the eastern U.S., water in rivers and streams is generally not measured, quantified and allocated. Rather, land owners...

  17. Chapter 14 Appropriating Family Trees: Genealogies in the Age of Genetics
    (pp. 309-329)
    Gísli Pálsson

    The construction of family pedigrees is a widespread commodity industry in the Euro-American context, a critical component in the mapping of genes and bodies in the era of modern biomedicine. In her ethnographic description of medical encounters in the analysis and treatment of cancer, Gibbon refers to the ‘mostly hidden “technology”’ involving ‘the production and use of family trees’ (2002: 421). For Gibbon, ‘clinical family trees gain much of their “force” from being both a form of family genealogies and simultaneously a type of scientific pedigree’ (2002: 433). This dual nature of genealogies, I shall argue, has potential implications for...

  18. Chapter 15 Cultural Property, Repatriation and Relative Publics: Which Public? Whose Culture?
    (pp. 330-348)
    Melanie G. Wiber

    In this paper I utilise recent reevaluations of the public/private dichotomy in property theory (Weintraub and Kumar 1997; Geisler and Daneker 2000) to explore the repatriation of objects claimed on the basis of cultural property rights.¹ My analysis is based on two North American cases of repatriation, one from Canada (Kruzenga 2001; 2002) and one from the United States (Milun 2001). First, I rely on the concept of ‘relative publics’ to ask questions about potential multiple claimants to cultural property (F. von Benda-Beckmann 2000).² I also use notions of space and time to think about the role of power both...

  19. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 349-354)
  20. Index
    (pp. 355-368)