Power / Knowledge / Land

Contested Ontologies of Land and Its Governance in Africa
Laura A. German
Explores contested truths surrounding land governance in Africa and beyond


The 2008 outcry over the “global land grab” made headlines around the world, and has led to sustained interest among both academics and the international development establishment. In Power/Knowledge/Land, author Laura German profiles the consolidation of a global knowledge regime surrounding land and its governance within international development circles following the outcry over “global land grabs,” and the growing enrollment of previously antagonistic actors within it. Drawing theoretical insights from ontological anthropology and decolonial theory and deploying pioneering analytical techniques inspired by the politics of knowledge, German reveals the inner mechanics of a global knowledge regime that has enabled the longstanding project of commodifying customary land to be advanced by capturing the energies of socially progressive forces. By bringing theories of change from the emergent land governance orthodoxy into dialogue with the ethnographic evidence from across the African continent and beyond, concepts masquerading as universal and self-evident truths are provincialized, and their role in commodifying customary land and entrenching colonial futurities put on display. In doing so, the volume brings wider academic debates surrounding productive forms of power into the heart of the land grab debate, while enhancing their accessibility to a wider audience.

Power/Knowledge/Land takes current scholarly debates surrounding land grabs beyond their theoretical moorings in critical agrarian studies, political economy and globalization into contemporary debates surrounding the politics of knowledge—from decolonial theory to ontological anthropology, thereby enabling new dynamics of the phenomenon to be revealed. German also takes a deep look at global knowledge brokers and dynamics in international development, complementing a large body of scholarship on the political economy of land grabs and their situated agrarian dynamics. The book deploys a pioneering epistemology integrating deconstructionist tools of discourse analysis with comparative study and systematic qualitative reviews to hold dominant knowledge and truth claims surrounding theories of change in international development circles against the ethnographic evidence—from situated property relations and ontologies of land, to the impacts of land governance interventions. This helps to reveal the Western and modernist biases in the narratives that have been advanced about women, custom, and security, revealing how the coloniality of knowledge underpins political economies of land.

 Laura German is Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Georgia. 

Praise / Awards

  • “Laura German is authoritative and knowledgeable, and there is a real need for a wide-angle and critical analysis of the ‘land governance’ debates and of the various types of land law reform policies that have been advanced in the last 15 years or so.”
    —Catherine Boone, London School of Economics

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 344pp.
  • 3 illustrations, 2 tables.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2022
  • Forthcoming
  • 978-0-472-07533-1

  • $90.00 U.S.

  • Paper
  • 2022
  • Forthcoming
  • 978-0-472-05533-3

  • $39.95 U.S.

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