Unhappy performatives of property among Colombian campesinxs: a contribution to a relational approach to property and dispossession

Authors: Natalia Perez*, Simon Fraser University
Topics: Legal Geography, Latin America
Keywords: Property, Colombia, peasants, land dispossession, performativity
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 1:30 PM / 2:45 PM
Room: Virtual 40
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Based on fieldwork in the Caribbean region of Colombia, this article centers and denaturalizes property in the land restitution claims of campesinxs involved in an emblematic legal case of a violent form of dispossession enacted by paramilitary actors over communities that were beneficiaries of agrarian reform. Drawing from legal geography, postcolonial scholarships, and performative theory, this article follows the citations and reiterations constitutive of campesinxs’ performances of property to discursive practices of the Colombian Agrarian Law as well as their implicit and not implicit citations of the Lockean labour theory of property to argue that despite performing possession to perfection, campesinxs’ performances of property are best characterized as ‘unhappy performatives,’ which corresponds to performatives that, despite citing an accepted conventional procedure, fail to produce the conventional effect (Austin 1999). I examine how, instead of property, the reiteration of Campesinxs unhappy performatives maintains a racial and gendered legal order that renders campesinxs as landless and their lands and labor as objects of appropriation by landlords, corporations, and even the state. This contribution seeks to push debates about land dispossession of campesinxs beyond conventional accounts offered by political economy analyses. It also intends to challenge the neglect this topic has largely suffered from postcolonial/decolonial and critical property scholarships.

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