Spatialising the Land Bureaucracy (in the Postcolonial World)

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Political Geography Specialty Group, Development Geographies Specialty Group, Urban Geography Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM (Eastern Standard Time)
Room: 8223, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Organizers: Sangeeta Banerji, Tom Cowan
Chairs: Tom Cowan

Call for Submissions

The proposed session invites research that seeks to synthesize the rich literature on the everyday state in the postcolonial context (Anand, 2007; Anjaria, 2011; Benjamin, 2008; Björkman, 2014; Doshi, 2013; Gupta, 2012), with a keener spatial-analytical approach derived from political geography towards developing a body of literature on spaces of the land bureaucracy in the post colonial context. We invite papers that will discuss research on –
State space of the post colonial land and property bureaucracy,
Process and Actors Navigating/Mediating/Brokering state space of land and property bureaucracy,
New centralizing technologies of the post colonial land and property bureaucracy,
Corruption and Transparency narratives in the postcolonial state space

If you are interested in participating in this session, please submit an abstract of no more than 250 words, along with your name and affiliation, to by October 20th. We will reply to all submissions by November 1st.


Session Organizers: Tom Cowan (University of Bergen) and Sangeeta Banerji (Rutgers University)

In response to the increasing salience of real estate investment to the developing economy over the past fifteen years, the state has sought to initiate a series of urban and rural land reforms in order to bypass political opposition to land dispossession and facilitate the transformation of heterogeneous land tenure arrangements to globally legible property (Searle, 2016). Such processes, aided by emerging technological innovations in bureaucratic governance, has prompted a transformation and respatialisation of the postcolonial state machinery, as it seeks to flexibly manoeuvre itself to best facilitate land capture. While there is now a wealth of scholarly work on the “real estate turn” (Goldman, 2011; Searle, 2016; Shatkin, 2017) there is less than direct engagement with the role of everyday state actors within the extensive bureaucratic structure in mediating and disrupting regimes of property and land transformation. There has equally been little engagement with the technological innovations that have erupted in the bureaucratic landscape, assisting the postcolonial state’s ambitions to resolve the ‘land question’.

Within political geography and anthropology, recent studies of the postcolonial bureaucracy frame the network of positions and duties that compose the state as variously porous, informal, and illegible (Benjamin & Raman, 2001; Ghertner, 2011; Roy, 2009) and as marked by persistent challenges of corruption (summarized by Doshi & Ranganathan, 2016; Sharma & Gupta, 2006). In contrast with geographical research on urban governance and state space, the rich anthropological work on what is called “the everyday state” in the postcolonial context engages a wider range of state actors and offers a broader understanding of how the spaces of the state stretch into the domain of everyday life (Björkman, 2014; Das, 2011; Gupta, 2012). Yet, much of this more anthropological literature shies away from a more direct engagement with bureaucratic structure and therefore neglects the multifaceted internal processes that constitute the state machineries and systems of intermediation.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Introduction Tom Cowan University of Bergen 5 9:55 AM
Presenter Indivar Jonnalagadda*, University of Pennsylvania, Karan Misquitta*, , Distribution, not Redistribution: Populism and the Trajectories of Land Titling in South India 15 10:00 AM
Presenter Sangeeta Banerji*, Rutgers University, Ease of Doing Business: Centralizing Technologies of the Land Bureaucracy in Mumbai 15 10:15 AM
Presenter Sian Butcher*, University of the Witwatersrand, Beyond privatised urbanism: negotiating land transformations in developer-driven ‘affordable’ suburbanisation, Gauteng, South Africa 15 10:30 AM
Presenter Zhe Yu Lee*, University of Wisconsin, Politics of implementing agrarian reform in North Sumatra, Indonesia: The productiveness of institutional fragmentation 15 10:45 AM
Presenter Sophia Abbas*, Yale University, Shifting Landscapes, Changing Aspirations: Re-Imagining Land and Urban Change on the Edges of Metropolitan India 15 11:00 AM
Discussant Kalyanakrishnan Sivaramakrishnan 20 11:15 AM

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