"The land is sweet": on the politics of giving and keeping land rights in Afghanistan

Land governance in Afghanistan is a crucial interface to theorize the clashes between interventionary frameworks of liberal peacebuilding and local authorities and to explain the shifting scales of conflicts and power relations. Afghanistan is thus a relevant case study to make conceptual and methodological contributions from an anthropological perspective to debates around peacebuilding and peace and conflict studies. This doctoral thesis explores the relationship between land governance and international peacebuilding in the context of the US-led intervention in Afghanistan following the events of 11 September 2001. Typical for a conflict context, disputes related to land rights in Afghanistan are prolific and involve a wide range of issues such as institutional pluralism, property restitution, land registration, and land allocation. The fields of peacebuilding and political science commonly explain the proliferation of land- based conflicts in terms of state absence or weakness, as technical problems to be dealt with in legislative reforms or at the level of macroeconomic data and elite settlements. Based on the ethnographic research of six land-based conflicts, this thesis argues that the ‘statist’ character of Afghanistan’s land tenure regime which accords the central government a direct and central role in allocating and managing land rights is a major source of instability. This instability is structural and linked to the twin dynamic of frequent power alternations at the central government level which may occur through regime violent change or elections and practices of land allocation as part of redistributive politics.



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 Record created 2018-02-06, last modified 2019-08-06

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