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SoA Lecture Series: Anne Griffiths (UIR Scholar-in-Residence)


Sep 13 2018 - 2:00pm

Thursday, September 13, 2018
2:00–3:00 p.m.
Haury 215

Title: Negotiating Space and Place in Relation to Land: A View from Kweneng Land Board, Botswana

Abstract: My presentation explores the dimensions of space and place through an examination of land and how it is administered by Kweneng Land Board (KLB) in Botswana. It is based on an ethnographic study carried out in 2009-2010 that builds on research I carried out in Kweneng District in the 1980’s. One of twelve Land Boards in the country that regulate the allocation and transfer of customary land, that accounts for 70% of land in Botswana, KLB, plays a key role in land administration and management within its 38,122 km2   jurisdiction. Thus its relation to ‘place’ embodies a grounded, physical, territorial space. Yet, at the same time, KLB finds itself positioned with a complex set of relations that engage with national institutions, such as the Ministry of Lands and Housing within which it is situated, as well as with other local agencies, such as the District Council and Tribal Administration that deals with the administration of customary law more generally. For Molepolole village, where KLB is based, is not only the regional centre for district administration, but is also home to Bakwena, where the Chief’s kgotla, Kgosing is located. The latter represents the apex of Kwena socio-political governance of the polity or ‘tribe’. Thus KLB also engages with a more intangible aspect of space, one that derives from the place in which it is situated. This is one that embodies social relationships with intersecting dimensions that also map onto the physical domain that it regulates. In exploring land as a site of action involving social relations embedded in space and time, my paper highlights the spatialization of power that is at work in these relations that have much in common with forms of governance and governmentality that are at work more broadly across the globe. While such transnational approaches to governance can and do have negative consequences, they also have the potential to provide for more positive dimensions of transformation and change. The paper also reveals the hidden dimensions of legal pluralism that are at work here.

Anne Griffiths is the author/co-author or editor/co-editor of ten books, including In the Shadow of Marriage: Gender and Justice in an African Community (1997), Family Law (now in its 4th edition, 2015), The Power of Law in a  Transnational World: Anthropological Enquiries (2009), and Subjectivity, Citizenship, and Belonging in Law: Identities and Intersections (2017), as well as a long list of articles and chapters on legal rights of children, and on the intersection of state and customary land tenure in Africa.  She was the Principal Coordinator of a major grant from the British Academy (2015-2017), Realising Justice? Negotiating Land Reform in Central and Southern Africa, which was a collaboration between the Universities of Edinburgh, Botswana, Malawi and Zimbabwe.

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