22 September

Call for Papers: Interrogating land, property, and land use: Investment, conflict, and politics

The recent ‘global rush’ on land challenges existing ownership, property relations, and uses of land. Multiple forms of land use change and related governance include large-scale investments in agricultural lands and pressures placed on lands by housing demand. In the global north, land use changes in rural and peri-urban areas are highly publicized political processes affected by the changing role of governance and the state, hegemonic valourization of economic growth, the investment of global funds in farmlands, tensions between use and exchange value of property, and competing constructions of land, property, place, and nature. In this context, there is new attention to land investors, land developers, and different types of land owners as these relate to land use policies.

Conflicts over the use of land and conversion of land uses in exurban and rural areas are flashpoints over farmland protection, nature conservation, resource extraction, siting of waste disposal, wind farms, infrastructure, water, indigenous land claims and urban development. New forms of investment and financialization of land are challenging existing uses of land. More longstanding investments in and transformation of land by property developers continue to be contested, especially by opponents to urban sprawl and advocates for near urban agriculture. Alternative conceptions of land beyond its commodity form underpin popular resistance at various scales, including grassroots movements and political and strategic engagement with state and related institutions.

New regulatory and governance frameworks seek to address alternate claims to land and property. Land use planning regulates conflicting interests over land and often plays a mediating role. Competing discursive strategies vie to shape the form and content of policies. In some places, this has resulted in alternative and innovative policy processes and policy implementation. There is new attention to the regulation of land investors, and different types of land owners as government agencies at different scales confront land and property issues that fall outside the purview of traditional land use planning systems.

We seek  papers  on property, land, and land use in peri-urban and rural areas of the global north that develop a broader understanding and critical reflection beyond site-specific or sectoral case study analyses to address cross-cutting theoretical and policy frameworks.  These will address three broad themes:

(1) ‘Interrogating land and property’ will focus on new theoretical interventions that critically examine the narratives, practices and politics of property, land, and land use from a range of theoretical perspectives, including political ecology, political economy, institutionalism, socio-legal studies,  indigenous studies, feminist theory, and critical planning theory. What are the implications of changing relations of property that call into question traditional ownership patterns and land tenure? Are there racialized and gendered patterns of property ownership and control? How are alternative narratives of land and property developed and communicated? Are there new legal frameworks that address changing relations of land and property?

(2) ‘Land grabbing in the global north’ will specifically rethink the concept and practice of land grabbing or large scale land assemblies, especially in the context of recent land investments in North America and other regions of the global north. Possible topics might address, amongst others, land assembly practices, land banking, large-scale investment in farmland, financialization of land by pension funds, sovereign funds, or hedge funds, and land use conversions. How do different forms of state power shape access to land and rights?  What is the mediating role of regulatory frameworks, governance and institutions in shaping land deals?  Are there new forms of access to land and what are the responses of farmers, leasors, and surrounding communities to corporate investments? What are the interconnections between biophysical landscapes and the political economies of development?

(3) ‘Land conflicts’ will showcase theoretically-informed case studies that illuminate competing actors and interests over land and land-based resources. Papers might examine commonalities across sites and issues, or interrogate the role of land use planning in initiating land conflict, resolution, and its place within larger institutional frameworks. Other possibilities include: a systematic examination of land conflicts within a framework of ‘networked’ governance or the post-political; investigations of the role of  legal framework and bureaucratic structures in regulating land use and access; the practice of collaborative planning in land conflicts; cross-scalar or multi-sectoral dimensions of conflicts; forms of collaboration within land conflicts among state, industry and social movement actors; coalition building over land conflicts; environmental politics of land use and change; and Indigenous claims and challenges to land and property.

Please submit a 250 word abstract by October 15, 2016 to Gerda Wekerle (gwekerle@yorku.ca), Faculty of Environmental Studies, and Donald Leffers (donald.leffers@mail.mcgill.ca).