Histories of land : politicization, property and belonging in Molo, Kenya

Sammanfattning: This thesis aims to explore the politicization of land in a local setting in Kenya. The purpose is to study how access to land is justified through histories about relational property and belonging. The notion of deep politics is used in order to suggest that these histories of property and belonging not only transform the meanings of land but also the meanings of politics. The empirical chapters describe how the ordeals of the high politics of the state—such as the creation of settlement schemes, the provision of landed resources, or the alteration of constituency boundaries—have given rise to local histories about how property and belonging are constituted. The findings of the thesis build on extensive fieldwork. The main empirical material consists of qualitative interviews with 129 persons, undertaken primarily in Molo. The interviews are complemented with ethnographic observations and archival sources. In policy and theory alike, land is usually treated as a purely economic resource, subject to property rights regulations of a technical, universal and decontextualized nature. Such assumptions have underwritten many large-scale land privatization reforms in the Global South. In contrast to such assumptions, this dissertation contributes to the literature on access to land in Africa by suggesting that even when property rights to land are generally accepted, they are also backed up by other claims, such as various histories of belonging. The idea that property rights, decades after titling-reforms, are both accepted and complemented with other notions of what constitutes legitimate access to land is an original finding of the thesis. This adds further complexity to the notion of property as inherently relational and potentially eligible for politicization. Additional light is hereby cast on why conflicts over land might not be solved but instead reinforced by land reforms.