Formalizing the Gaps: Rural property, development, and ordenamiento territorial

Authors: Gabriella Subia Smith*,
Topics: Legal Geography, Cultural and Political Ecology, South America
Keywords: property, critical cartography, Colombia
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Roosevelt 4.5, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Property formalization programs the world over aim to address problems of tenure insecurity and underdevelopment. One such program in Colombia claims that formalization meets these aims by “filling the gaps” between government knowledge of rural property and how campesinos experience property on the ground. However, ethnographic research of the formalization process reveals that while some gaps in knowledge maybe filled in, others are created in their place. The processes of documentation involved in making a case for land title require a negotiation of claims to land and knowledge between the state, program administrators, and campesinos. While cartography and qualitative descriptions of land and residents work to formalize dominant claims, instead of filling gaps, formalization generates new images of rural space that still do not necessarily align with reality. This paper explores how formalization projects end up remaking rural worlds in unexpected and unintended ways. While formalization methodologies contribute to the production of gaps, it is the actors and interests that are invested in land tenure that ultimately shape narratives surrounding formalization’s impacts on rural space.

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