Customary Tenure Systems and Territorial Rights
This theme explores the interaction between locally-devised forms of ownership and land tenure, and market- and state-driven forms of territoriality. Indeed, projects related to this theme document customary institutions of land and sea ownership and governance, and examine how these articulate or conflict with state-level and transnational institutions of law and governance impinging on partner territories. Our indigenous partners characterize their responsibilities to their territories in terms translatable as “stewardship”. Yet states’ translation (or denial) of group rights in property and territory, combined with bureaucratic resource management, have undermined the systems of indigenous hunters, herders, fishers and cultivators (Anderson & Berglund 2003; Schlee & Shongolo 2012). In order to not essentialize indigenous people and communities as inherent environmentalists, it is crucial to pay attention to the institutional rules and processes of customary tenure arrangements (Agrawal and Gibson 1999).
Through individual and group interviews and workshops, participant observation, tenure histories, archival recovery, and community mapping, our projects seek to ask questions pressing to customary land and sea tenure issues:
- How are rights-holding groups and territories constituted and bounded? How are rights inherited and transmitted?
- What rules define stewardship responsibilities, authority and decision-making? What rules govern resource access and distribution?
- What mechanisms of social control operate? And how are these arrangements defended in the face of external challenges to their authority?
Our projects are also concerned with other questions concerning researchers specifically. For instance:
- In what way can researchers assist indigenous communities in addressing issues of overlapping territorial claims, claims that may undermine indigenous communities’ rights with state institutions?
- How can researchers document clearly observable changes in indigenous communities’ territorial utilization in a manner that does not undermine their claims on these territories within the context of state institutions?
Theme Leaders: John G. Galaty, Charles Menzies, Ismael Vaccaro