Land, State-Building, and Political Authority in Africa


This project investigates the development of plural property rights, critical to governance, economic development, and environmental policy. Based on 18 months of fieldwork in Senegal and Zambia, her research demonstrates how diverse systems of customary authority, such as traditional chiefdoms and Islamic marabouts, shape where state land titles develop.

She examines two key processes that replace customary land rights with state property rights, thereby extending the state’s authority over land. First, she studies local resistance to large-scale land acquisitions by the state and multinational corporations in an era of booming global demand for African agricultural land. Second, she shows that farmers in Zambia and Senegal strategically title their land in response to their communities’ type of customary authority. The work has implications for the livelihoods of small farmers and for state authority. 


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