The devil is in the details: A critique of land formalization policies through the lenses of the performances of property

Authors: Natalia Perez*, Simon Fraser University
Topics: Legal Geography, South America
Keywords: Formalization; Property; Legal Geography; Land Restitution; Colombia
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2020
Start / End Time: 1:30 PM / 2:45 PM
Room: Governors Square 15, Sheraton, Concourse Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Widely criticized by critical scholarships, land formalization policies (LFP) situate formalization as a precondition for ‘development’, poverty reduction and, more recently, also as an essential component of peace building. This article proposes a critique of land formalization policies that focuses on “property” and approaches it as a relational notion that is always “coming into being” and proposes the conceptualization of the “formality model”, which refers to the entangled set of ideas, discourses, images and narratives that produces formality as simple, neutral, desirable, and conducive to security, and informality as despicable, dangerous and linked to insecurity. This article examines an emblematic case of the Colombian Land Restitution policy, a purported progressive land formalization policy, through the lens of the formality model. It shows the role the formality model play in shaping the production of exclusionary subjects and objects of property through seemly innocuous everyday techno-legal practices of property legitimized by the policy.

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