American Sociological Association

A World-Systems Frontier Perspective to Land: Exploring the Uneven Trajectory of Land Rights Standardization in the Andes

This paper proposes a world-systems frontier perspective by approaching frontiers and frontier zones as analytical tools in indicating and understanding the uneven local-global interactions underlying world-systemic incorporation processes. It argues that the notion of frontier can highlight the role of ‘peripheral agency’ in local-global interactions, revealing incorporation as a negotiated process. Based on research on the implementation and contestation of land reforms in Andean peasant communities, this paper applies a world-systems frontier framework to the analysis of historical processes of land rights commodification. An assessment of the formation and reorganization of a centralized land regime in Bolivia over the last five centuries demonstrates how this trajectory was shaped by the interplay of the modernizing aspirations of public authorities and strong communal land claims. This complex (re)negotiation over rights and resources drives the creation and movement of (new) frontiers of land control, materializing in an uneven trajectory of land commodification. The presented frontier perspective is instructive to questions on the expansion, the limits and the contradictions of the capitalist world.


Hanne Cottyn





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