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Questioning Landownership III:The politics of access, property and alternatives: Researching changes in farmland ownership in the Canadian Prairies

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Economic Geography Specialty Group, Geographies of Food and Agriculture Specialty Group, Urban Geography Specialty Group
Organizers: Marit Rosol
Chairs: Annette Desmarais


Overall Session Description:
One result of the 2008 systemic failure of the global economic and financial order is a massive run of capital into real estate and agricultural lands. This ‘land-grabbing’ or ‘land hunger’ (van der Ploeg et al. 2015; Borras and Franco 2013) brings questions of land, forms of ownership and tenure, and access prominently on the agenda. Going beyond the – important and necessary – critique of the increasing concentration of land in the hands of a few, in this session we want to question the concept of (private) landownership itself. Specifically, our objectives are to:
1) question the hegemony of private landownership, which is usually uncontested in everyday life and mostly invisible in political discussions (e.g. Blomley 2003, 2016).
2) explore other possible framings, such as, for example, the theory of access (Ribot and Peluso 2003) and related discussions of power, claim-making, benefits and control.
3) draw attention to the governance and regulation of land use, transfer and ownership (e.g. Sikor and Müller 2009).
4) investigate the transformative potential of alternative/collective/participatory forms of land-ownership, tenure and use (e.g. DeFilippis et al. 2019; Gombay 2018).
To discuss these issues, we welcome theory-driven and/or empirically grounded papers relating to ur-ban and rural experiences from around the globe. Guiding questions include, but are not limited to the following:
• What are the genealogies of present landownership structures in specific geographical loca-tions? What are the consequences of the territorialisation of property?
• What is to say about the relationship between possession and (formal) ownership of land, access to land and its regulation and governance? What are conditions and implications of different forms of governance? How can they serve as political strategy and/or capacity to act?
• What role do communities, civic organizations, the state and the market play in this?
• How can a radical democratization/social-ecological transformation of land ownership and use look like and be implemented? What historic forms of collective/participatory landownership or land use existed and how were they organized? What kind of examples that strive for such transformed land ownership exist and what can we learn from them?
• What about the scalability of collective forms of land use? Are they necessarily local or how can they be “scaled up”?

Blomley, Nicholas (2003): Unsettling the City. Urban Land and the Politics of Property. London, New York: Routledge.
— (2016): The Territory of Property. In Progress in Human Geography 40 (5), pp. 593–609.
Borras, Saturnino M.; Franco, Jennifer C. (2013): Global Land Grabbing and Political Reactions ‘From Below’. In Third World Quar-terly 34 (9), pp. 1723–1747.
DeFilippis, James; Williams, Olivia R.; Pierce, Joseph; Martin, Deborah G.; Kruger, Rich; Esfahani, Azadeh Hadizadeh (2019): On the Transformative Potential of Community Land Trusts in the United States. In Antipode 51 (3), pp. 795–817.
Gombay, Nicole (2018): Just Enough to Survive: Economic Citizenship in the Context of Indigenous Land Claims. In Anthony Ince, Sarah Marie Hall (Eds.): Sharing Economies in Times of Crisis. Practices, Politics and Possibilities. London, New York: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, pp. 160–174.
Ribot, Jesse C.; Peluso, Nancy Lee (2003): A Theory of Access. In Rural Sociology 68 (2), pp. 153–181.
Sikor, Thomas; Müller, Daniel (2009): The Limits of State-Led Land Reform: An Introduction. In World Development 37 (8), pp. 1307–1316.
van der Ploeg, Jan Douwe; Franco, Jennifer C.; Borras, Saturnino M. (2015): Land Concentration and Land Grabbing in Europe: A Preliminary Analysis. In Canadian Journal of Development Studies 36 (2), pp. 147–162.

Description for Sub-Session:
Access to farmland is the most basic necessity to ensure healthy, just, and sustainable food systems at local, national, and global scales. In Canada, the prairie provinces are home to the vast majority of the country’s agricultural land, yet there is very little research into the politics, logistics, and barriers to accessing and managing farmland data. This session draws on a mix of quantitative and qualitative research methods to reveal the role of farmers, researchers, and policy makers in ensuring an agricultural land-base on the Canadian prairies for generations to come. The panel will address the following questions: How do provincial and national politics affect the management of land registries and what implications does this have for research about farmland ownership on the prairies? When land registry data is available, what does it tell us and how might it help researchers, farmers, and policy makers in decision making about farmland access and control? What role does qualitative research play in interrogating farmland access on the prairies and how can it be used to effect policy and social change? How do changes in farmland ownership and increasing farmland concentration affect farmers and impact rural communities? To what extent are financial actors participating in the farmland market and how might this affect the social and environmental landscapes of rural communities on the prairies?
Understanding the current state of farmland politics, access, management, and ownership are essential especially given the trend on the Canadian prairies of disappearing farmers and the apparent concentration of farmland ownership in the hands of fewer people, be they farmers, investors, or non-farming individuals. We aim to demonstrate how particular research methodologies and data sources can help us gain a better understanding of farmland politics, power and the effects on rural communities.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Laura Funk*, , The politics of managing land registries: A case study analysis of accessing land titles in the Canadian prairie provinces 15 12:00 AM
Presenter Melissa Davidson*, , The Saskatchewan Land Titles Registry: A partial picture of changing land ownership in Saskatchewan 15 12:00 AM
Presenter Katherine Aske*, , The Value of Qualitative Research in Assessing the Impacts and Implications of Changing Farmland Tenure Patterns in Alberta 15 12:00 AM
Presenter Hannah Bihun*, University of Manitoba, Land Grabs on the Prairies? Investigating farmland ownership in Manitoba, Canada 15 12:00 AM
Presenter Naomi Beingessner*, University of Manitoba, Beyond private and public: models of agricultural grazing land tenure and access in the Prairie provinces 15 12:00 AM

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