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Property and Political Order in Africa: land rights and the structure of politics

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Catherine Boone
Cambridge University Press (December 2013)

In sub-Saharan Africa, property relationships around land and access to natural resources vary across localities, districts, and farming regions. These differences produce patterned variations in relationships between individuals, communities, and the state.

This book captures these patterns in an analysis of structure and variation in rural land tenure regimes. In most farming areas, state authority is deeply embedded in land regimes, drawing farmers, ethnic insiders and outsiders, lineages, villages, and communities into direct and indirect relationships with political authorities at different levels of the state apparatus.

The analysis shows how property institutions - institutions that define political authority and hierarchy around land - shape dynamics of great interest to scholars of politics, including the dynamics of land-related competition and conflict, territorial conflict, patron-client relations, electoral cleavage and mobilisation, ethnic politics, rural rebellion, and the localisation and "nationalisation" of political competition.

  • Professor Catherine Boone is Professor of Comparative Politics and African Political Economy at LSE.

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"The overarching argument of Catherine Boone’s book is that land conflicts lie at the core of political competition in Africa. Land tenure is not an epi-phenomenon that political scientists (or others) can afford to dismiss. Land conflicts - and property - are at the heart of the structuration, and differentiation, of political institutions and governance in Africa. Moreover, even if attention seems to have shifted from rural to urban development in recent years, the book claims that civil conflict mainly takes place in the rural areas, and, as importantly, a major part of the electorate lives in rural areas, wherefore the connections between livelihood, property, tenure regimes, and political institutions are central for political analysis. This is the kind of text with which one would feel entirely comfortable on a syllabus. It is up to date, it is comprehensive, and the methodology is explicit and effective. I would definitely recommend it to students."
Christian Lund, Professor of Development, Resource Management and Governance, Department of Food and Resource Economics, University of Copenhagen


Property and Political Order in Africa