Appropriating land
Location I
Date and Time 9th December, 2008 at 10:30


Phyllis Herda (University of Auckland)
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Short Abstract

This panel focuses on the appropriation of land, articulating the discursive and representational processes through which land is evaluated, and its ownership asserted or contested.

Long Abstract

This panel focuses on the appropriation of land, articulating the discursive and representational processes through which land is evaluated, and its ownership asserted or contested.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Property, memory and emotions in narratives about village forests

Author: Monica Vasile (Humboldt University/ IRITHESys)

Short Abstract

The paper will analyze the value and meanings attributed to recently restored community-owned forests in rural areas of Romania, stressing on the role of emotional commitment enhanced through memory and historical symbolism.


My paper brings into focus recent property reforms in the post socialist context of Eastern Europe. Land, forests and pastures were devolved into the hands of private owners, namely individuals, associations or municipality structures. In Romania, the whole process was characterised by a strong emphasis on restoring social justice through restitution of the 'same' land that was taken away by the communists.

The paper will analyze the value and meanings that people attribute to recently restored community-owned forests in rural areas of Romania, based on a fieldwork research pursued in a micro-comparative setting (10 villages).

The anthropological literature suggests that both rational self-interest and emotional commitments are needed in order to act properly in the economic field. In my case, the symbolic dimension is the one that keeps people interested and involved in the processes related to their forests. I will show that property in its collective forms might contain a very strong affective and symbolic dimension, based on the memory of former practices and the historical legitimacy that keeps the resource significant in people's mind and life, although mostly deprived of its material value.

The paper will deploy different types of narratives produced by different types of actors, like the "narrative of deprivation", the "narrative of collectiveness", the "narrative of continuity" and furthermore by showing the way in which these narratives might influence actions.

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Owning Community-Based Ecotourism Development: Business Va’avanua

Author: Trisia Farrelly (Massey University)

Short Abstract

Vanua Boumā are striving to apply the western-based approaches to community based ecotourism development they have learned from ‘outsiders’ to vanua as their core cultural values in order to create their own ‘business va’avanua’ for renewed social harmony and sense of place.


In 1988, Vanua Boumā (the Boumā tribe) of Taveuni, Fiji approached the New Zealand government to help them find an economic alternative to commercial logging on their communally-tenured land. As a result, in 1990, the Boumā National Heritage Park was established with each landowning clan developing a community-based ecotourism enterprise. This was a project supported by the Fijian state’s neoliberal agenda to generate revenue via the establishment of this and other community conservation areas in Fiji. The projects were developed with funding and consultation from NZAID and their New Zealand-based management services consultants. While the success of community-based ecotourism projects are normally measured by their economic and environmental sustainability, living life va’a vanua (the vanua way) is Vanua Boumā’s measure of ‘success’ and implies social integrity and harmony. Although management under external advice provided a solid foundation for the development projects, this presentation discusses the ways in which Vanua Boumā are facing the challenges of redirecting and hybridising these ecotourism initiatives whereby they feel they can truly ‘own’ them as their ‘life projects’ (Blaser, Feit & McRae, 2004). The people of Boumā are attempting to do this by creating an indigenised form of entrepreneurship based firmly on the principles and practices of vanua as a complex localised, historicised, and politicised human-environment relationship and way of living. Contrary to the traditional treatment of indigenous communities by development practitioners and researchers, the Boumā people are not passive recipients of change but are determined to reinvent the business of community-based ecotourism as a more meaningful and sustainable ‘business va’avanua’.

Ownership and Marginalisation in a Punjab Village

Author: Daljeet Singh Arora (BECON)

Short Abstract

Using data from my doctoral fieldwork, I discuss appropriation of land in India Punjab during the colonial administration. I develop an argument on differential and long-term impact of the land settlement policy in Punjab on land-owning and landless castes in Raigarh, a Punjab village.


A large body of anthropological research and literature exists that focuses on land appropriation in tribal communities across the world. While there are historical reasons for such a focus, it is also arguable that these communities faced impact of colonial policies on land most severely. In comparison, the impact of appropriation of land by the colonial administration on 'peasant' communities has been drastic and long term, if not as traumatic.

In my article, I wish to explore a situation in a village called Raigarh in the Ludhiana district of Punjab, a province in India. I argue that appropriation of land by the colonial administration impacted quite differently on peasant communities in Punjab during the colonial period and afterwards. I further emphasise that while tribal communities in some areas have managed to regain communal rights on land, for example through a recent law in India, a movement back to pre-colonial land relationship has not appeared for the landholding and non-landholding communities in Punjab. This aspect has resulted in extreme marginalisation of landless communities, especially the Dalits, despite land reforms set in Punjab.

My article is based on the information I collected as part of my doctoral fieldwork in 2001-2. In my article I discuss the existing relationship between people and land within the context of twin aspects of value attached to land in Raigarh. While land remains fundamental to Jat social and individual identity, it has also become an asset with commercial value, sometimes leading to social conflict.