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At the limits of state governance : territory, property and state making in Lenje Chiefdom, rural Zambia

Rosén, Linus (2020). At the limits of state governance : territory, property and state making in Lenje Chiefdom, rural Zambia. Diss. (sammanfattning/summary) Sveriges lantbruksuniv., Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae, 1652-6880
ISBN 978-91-7760-652-9
eISBN 978-91-7760-653-6
[Doctoral thesis]

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African state property regimes – embedded in a racialized structure of land ownership that stretches back centuries – are at the center of contemporary land struggles. At present, the Zambian government is appropriating ‘traditional land’, controlled by chiefs and headmen molded through colonial rule, in an effort to bring it into the fold of ‘modernity’. On paper this process appears as a powerful state-building project. Yet on the ground it is riddled with legal contingency, with land survey beacons appearing unexpectedly on people’s doorsteps, and chiefs finding themselves torn between asserting their sovereignty and maintaining recognition by the state

This thesis examines the material and conceptual remaking of chiefly lands as constitutive of new forms of exclusion and political authority. Yet, instead of focusing on the ‘achievements’ of state power, analytical attention is placed on the creative ways state governance is subverted by chiefly obstruction, insubordinate peoples and unruly nature. Drawing on long-term fieldwork and archival research, the thesis argues that the process of ‘state making’ and its effects are inseparable from the myriad material practices that thwart state power. A conceptualization of ‘boundaries’ is developed to capture how relations of stately and chiefly power operate on an unstable political landscape. The analysis knits together insights from legal pluralism, political ecology, critical geography, anthropology and postcolonial theory in a grounded reading of everyday forms of state formation that captures how colonial histories and spatialities intertwine with present-day politics.

Building on this analytical foundation, the thesis links up four case studies of ‘state making’: (I) the colonial racialization and sedentarization of African bodies, and their refusals to conform to colonial territoriality, (II) the government enclosure of a forest repeatedly reoccupied by chiefly authority (III) the emplacement of survey beacons on village land, and their demolition by local inhabitants, and (IV) the promotion of statesanctioned title deeds on customary land, and their reinvention as implements of chiefly control. Each case makes visible the fissures of state power and how creative people exploit indeterminacies to resist eviction and reassert their claims to home and land. Through a recognition of ‘ordinary people’ as political protagonists, fully capable of contestation and critique, the thesis shows how marginalized people continuously test the limits of state governance, and how such practices are not ‘irregularities’ to otherwise effective performances of governance, but crucial political enactments that constitute new forms of property, territory and an uneven and variable state.

Authors/Creators:Rosén, Linus
Title:At the limits of state governance : territory, property and state making in Lenje Chiefdom, rural Zambia
Series Name/Journal:Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae
Year of publishing :2020
Number of Pages:246
Publisher:Department of Urban and Rural Development, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
ISBN for printed version:978-91-7760-652-9
ISBN for electronic version:978-91-7760-653-6
Publication Type:Doctoral thesis
Article category:Other scientific
Version:Published version
Full Text Status:Public
Subjects:(A) Swedish standard research categories 2011 > 5 Social Sciences > 504 Sociology > Social Anthropology
(A) Swedish standard research categories 2011 > 5 Social Sciences > 507 Social and Economic Geography > Human Geography
(A) Swedish standard research categories 2011 > 5 Social Sciences > 509 Other Social Sciences > Social Sciences Interdisciplinary (Peace and Conflict Research and Studies on Sustainable Society)
Keywords:state making, boundaries, land struggles, resistance, property, territory, chieftainship, Zambia
Permanent URL:
ID Code:18832
Faculty:NJ - Fakulteten för naturresurser och jordbruksvetenskap
Department:(NL, NJ) > Dept. of Urban and Rural Development
(LTJ, LTV) > Dept. of Urban and Rural Development
Deposited By: SLUpub Connector
Deposited On:27 Nov 2020 13:43
Metadata Last Modified:15 Jan 2021 19:45

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