Land Ownership and Conflict in a Global Context: Transfer, Adaptation and Translation of Normative Systems

Land Ownership and Conflict in a Global Context: Transfer, Adaptation and Translation of Normative Systems

Max-Planck-Institut für europäische Rechtsgeschichte
Frankfurt am Main
From - Until
20.02.2017 - 22.02.2017
Helen McKee

For many societies, land ownership is the definitive step in freedom from slavery, exploitation and colonial domination, meaning land is one of the, if not the, most important commodity in the world. Those who have it fiercely guard it whilst those who do not have it find extralegal ways to access it. Contested land is an issue found in contemporary legal issues as well as in every other historical period and region, making it an issue pertinent globally. This workshop will address several key areas of land ownership and conflict in a global context.

The first strand of the workshop will seek to define what land ownership means in different legal systems and in different areas of the globe. Where did the notion of land ownership come from? What does it really mean to “own” land? How did the legal tradition of land ownership develop in European empires? How did this differ to local notions of land ownership (eg. Aboriginal, Caribbean family land)? Who is legally considered an "owner"? How do legal systems create the categories of "owner" and "ownership"?

The second strand will explore the idea of land registration and how this contributed to land conflict. What was behind the system of registration? Did the adoption of a property registration system modify the condition of ownership? How different registrations systems interacted with possessory practices? What systems of registration exist in different regions of the world?

The third strand will discuss the conflicts that can arise from owning land. What problems arise from owning land? How do the differing legal systems contribute to such problems? What strategies are used to resolve conflicts over land? How are community resolutions implemented in contrast to state resolution? How does this differ depending on good faith vs bad faith disputes? Which kind of proofs play decisive role in legal disputes concerning land ownership?

Ultimately, this workshop will address the interplay between different legal systems, giving special attention to the relations between state law, local normative orders, imperial and colonial regulations, etc. It will seek to establish common themes in global land conflict and propose potential solutions.


Monday 20th February

10.00 Welcome and Opening Remarks – Professor Stefan Vogenauer

10.15 Panel One (Chair: Jean-Philippe Dequen)
Guma Komey “State Land Laws, Policies, and Rights: An Analysis of their Impact on the Livelihoods of Rural Communities in Sudan”

Jean-Claude Misenga “Reconciling the irreconcilable? Land “ownership”, large-scale land investments and conflict in the DR Congo”

Mariana Candido “Land rights in Angola: How did African women exercise ownership rights?”

13.45 Panel Two (Chair: Samuel Barbosa)
Elisabetta Fiocchi “Grundbuch, Transcription or Torrens System? Land Registration as a Technique of Empire for the Italian Colonies"

Christina Gabbert “Managing common land: Customary land use in Southern Ethiopia in a globalizing world”

15.30 Panel Three (Chair: Emily Whewell)
Non Arkaraprasertkul “Gentrifying Uncertainty: An Anthropological Reflection on Opaque Land and Housing Rights in Urban Shanghai”

Jobien Monster “The role of modern land law and local norms in the construction and resolution of land conflicts in Cambodia and Rwanda: two case studies”

17.00 Optional Drinks

19.00 Workshop Dinner

22.00 Discussion with Conference Organisers (Mariana Armond Dias Paes, Pamela Cacciavillani, Helen McKee)

Tuesday 21st February

10.00 Panel One (Chair: Manuel Bastias)
Sarah Keenan “Smoke, Curtains and Mirrors: The Production of Race Through Time and Title Registration”

Rosa Congost “Eppur si muove. For a realist (and relational) approach to property rights in land”

Anita Jowitt “TBC”

13.30 Institute and Library Tour

15.00 Optional MPI Workshop (Spanish and Portuguese language)

Wednesday 22nd February

10.00 Panel One (Chair: Justine Collins)
Carmen Alveal “Land property rights: an overview and challenges of the sesmaria system in Colonial Brazil (1550-1750)”

Jonathan deVore “Property and the Forensics of Personhood in a Post-Slave Society”

Monique Falcão “Ethnic Identity as Constitutional Foundation of Title of Property to Remaining Communities of Quilombos, Brazil, XXI Century”

13.30 Roundtable discussions with the Institute`s Focus Areas
Conflict Regulation

15.30 Closed Meeting to discuss publications and future meetings

Contact (announcement)

Dr. Helen McKee (
Editors Information
Published on
Temporal Classification
Regional Classification
Additional Informations
Country Event
Language(s) of event
Language of announcement