People, Place and Property Rights : A Political Ethnography of Land in Molo, Kenya book cover
1st Edition

People, Place and Property Rights
A Political Ethnography of Land in Molo, Kenya

ISBN 9780367559939
Published November 1, 2021 by Routledge
142 Pages 3 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

For more than a century, property rights to land in Molo in the Kenyan highlands have been subjected to diverse reforms and desires. Colonial and independent state administrations have restructured land tenure systems to establish and maintain authority or alleviate landlessness. Meanwhile, people on the ground have developed their own ideas about property rights, place, and people. Via a detailed political ethnography, Ulrika Kolben Waaranperä uncovers the heterodox notion of property rights that has emerged as land has been redistributed, settlement schemes established, electricity lines drawn, and electoral violence mobilized.

The book makes an important contribution to the study of land and politics in Kenya and beyond by drawing attention to how conceptions of property rights are shaped by and constitutive of relations of belonging and authority. This relational view challenges the universal definition of property rights undergirding most contemporary land reforms. Instead, property rights are situated within the political and rendered legible for both definitional and distributional debates. In effect, land reform is posited as a fundamentally political undertaking.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction  2. Politics of property rights  3. Settlements  4. Redefining land and community  5. Property and belonging  6. Conclusion

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Ulrika Kolben Waaranperä is a Postdoctoral fellow in Global Politics at Malmö University, Sweden.


"Ulrika’s writing style, skilfully intertwining theory with engaging accounts of lived experience, makes for a rich and compelling flow throughout this book. This book explains the politics around property in land in Molo, Kenya. In contrast to common conceptions of property in land as a legal or economic concept of universal validity, the book argues that, first, local contexts will inform understandings of what property in land is and, second, that those understandings will influence how people on the ground react to land reforms from above. By taking a heterodox approach, this book interrogates, builds on and challenges prevailing property rights theories." extracted from the Foreword by Spike Boydell, Series Editor, formerly of University of Technology, Sydney, Australia and Co-founder of Customary Land Solutions