Between commodity and community. A global and comparative research into communal land rights transformation in the Andes, 19th and 20th centuries. 

01 October 2016 → 30 September 2019
Regional and community funding: Special Research Fund
Research disciplines
  • Humanities
    • History
land rights 19th Century English Spanish Comparative Language and text analysis Field research 20th Century Contemporary Andean studies Ethnohistory Indigenous people Rural history World history South America History Interculturalism Area studies
Project description

This research seeks to gain a better historical understanding of the coexistence of communal land systems with processes of global land commodification through which land access and control is standardized into absolute private property rights. After 500 years of historical capitalism, an estimated 65% of the world’s land area continues to be managed under customary communitybased tenure regimes, but their strength and forms vary widely between regions and countries. A striking case of this community-commodity paradox is found in Andean communities, which have witnessed centuries of colonial exploitation and post-colonial extractivism and state formation but maintain a remarkable margin for communal land control. Parting from a shared history, both Peru and Bolivia recognize communal land rights today, but communities have gained a stronger position in Bolivia (despite some contradictions), which is reflected in the land politics and legal structure of the country. To grasp this poorly understood divergence, community-state negotiation strategies to assert communal land rights will be compared over the 19th and 20th centuries in a multi-scaled way. A case study on two highland regions, Oruro (Bolivia) and Apurímac (Peru), will be brought into dialogue with transformations at higher scales through an integrated comparison method. Firmly set within a global transdisciplinary network agenda, research on the Andes will permanently link up to and interrogate global land debates.