Land dispossession and property in the land restitution policy in Colombia: A legal geographical contribution

Authors: Natalia Perez*, Simon Fraser University
Topics: Latin America
Keywords: Land Dispossession; Property; Legal Geography; Land Restitution; Land; Colombia
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Grand Ballroom B, Sheraton, 5th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Primitive accumulation (Marx 1978; Hall 2013) and accumulation by dispossession (Harvey 2003) have contributed towards the conceptualization of dispossession as a process that is at the core of the historical geography of capitalism. According to these accounts, state power is often used to enable dispossession through mechanisms such as the advancement of private and individual forms of property. Although there is a growing academic literature that is expanding the details and nuances of the varied forms that contemporary dispossession adopts, it has often taken for granted what property is when analyzing the role that [private] property plays in relation to dispossession.

According to legal geographers and critical property theorists, when taken for granted, property is often produced as an abstraction that appears simple, certain, clear, equitable and benign despite its manifest exclusions, expulsions, and violence (Blomley 2013). Conceptualizing property, legal geographers and critical property theorists argue, necessarily implies making controversial value judgements about how to choose between conflicting interests (Singer 2000).

This paper introduces a legal geographical perspective into the analysis of land dispossession in Colombia. By focusing on the legal conceptualizations of land dispossession included in rulings of land restitution, an administrative and legal transitional justice policy that would provide land as a means of reparation to the victims of land dispossession within the context of the Colombian armed conflict, this paper seeks to illustrate how the implicit ways in which property is conceptualized is crucial in determining the shortcomings of government interventions to reverse land dispossession.

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