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Article

To have property rights over X is to have rights to determine, in some respect, what shall happen to X, for example a piece of land. To have territorial rights is to have rights to make, enforce, and adjudicate the law within a geographical area. Property and territorial rights thus seem closely related, and philosophical accounts reveal various interesting connections between these bundles of rights—both in their nature and justification. A significant division, which we find in both old and new accounts—of property as well as territory—originates in the diverging political philosophies of John Locke and Immanuel Kant. Lockean accounts regard property and territorial rights as natural. People may acquire both without the prior existence of an adjudicating political authority. Kantian accounts, however, regard property rights as pure legal conventions. Non-existent outside civil society, they must be fully constructed by a state with territorial (jurisdictional) rights. Further divisions exist within Lockean and Kantian theories, and all the most prominent theories—of property as well as territorial rights—face significant unresolved philosophical challenges.

Article

Land-related disputes and land conflicts are sometimes politicized in elections in African countries, but this is usually not the case. Usually, land-related conflict is highly localized, managed at the micro-political level by neo-customary authorities, and not connected to electoral competition. Why do land conflicts sometimes become entangled in electoral politics, and sometimes “scale up” to become divisive issues in regional and national elections? A key determinant of why and how land disputes become politicized is the nature of the underlying land tenure regime, which varies across space (often by subnational district) within African countries. Under the neo-customary land tenure regimes that prevail in most regions of smallholder agriculture in most African countries, land disputes tend to be “bottled up” in neo-customary land-management processes at the local level. Under the statist land tenure regimes that exist in some districts of many African countries, government agents and officials are directly involved in land allocation and directly implicated in dispute resolution. Under “statist” land tenure institutions, the politicization of land conflict, especially around elections, becomes more likely. Land tenure institutions in African countries define landholders’ relations to each other, the state, and markets. Understanding these institutions, including how they come under pressure and change, goes far in explaining how and where land rights become politicized.