When Land Becomes Property: Promises and Pitfalls of Land Titling for Indigenous Guarani and Campesinos in Northern Paraguay
December 3, 2019
Haury Room 216
Abstract: This dissertation examines how rural people in Northern Paraguay manage land and navigate land titling in order to stake claims to land and property, particularly under continuing processes of settler colonialism. Land title in Paraguay is touted as the key to securing land and livelihoods for campesinos and indigenous people. Through a multi-sited ethnography, I challenge this assumption by showing that the title implementation is irregular and slow; title itself does not guarantee possession nor guard against dispossession; and title requires a certain ideal-type community in order to be achieved.
Titling reorders rural people’s relationships to land as collective or individual lots are granted or held in suspension, and reorders rural people’s relationships to each other as they contest or cooperate on claims. I investigate the grinding precarity of rural livelihoods that both campesinos and indigenous people confront in ethnographic detail, focusing on the intersection between NGOs, rural landowners (including Paraguayan and Brasiguayo elites), campesinos, and indigenous peoples’ concepts of land rights and property. I find that despite legal mechanisms to title land, lasting settler colonial categorizations reproduce stark material differences in land access and livelihoods. At the same time, communities are able to assert certain forms of autonomy by leveraging legal concepts of property and ownership. I argue that land title is a fraught opportunity, with both promises and pitfalls for marginalized communities.
Committee Members: Linda Green, Marcela Vásquez-León, Thomas Sheridan