Accepted Paper:

Negotiated sovereignties and community land administration in Yei, South Sudan  


Mathijs Van Leeuwen (Radboud University Nijmegen)
Yves Van Leynseele (University of Amsterdam)
Marlie van de Kerkhof (University of Amsterdam)

Paper short abstract:

The paper focuses on land administration in Yei, South Sudan. It explains how traditional leaders, chiefs, military and state actors reposition themselves and renegotiate authority over land.

Paper long abstract:

This paper, based on 5 months of ethnographic fieldwork in Yei, South Sudan, focuses on the negotiation of authority over land. War, displacement and recent speculations about land-grabbing by foreign investors have resulted in confusion regarding authority over land, opening up an arena in which diverse public authorities reposition themselves. In this post-conflict setting land governance relations are being renegotiated.

Reconfiguring authority over land is an incremental part of statebuilding. This paper shows that this process of 'statebuilding from below' goes beyond a state-customary divide. In trying to secure authority, diverse sovereignties legitimize their own claims over land, while delegitimizing the claims of others. As the Government of South Sudan claims to acknowledge tradition by incorporating chiefs into local land governance structures through their decentralization efforts, other traditional leaders enact their authority less in provided state spaces. This paper illustrates how traditional leaders invoke tradition and claim authority more at village level.

In the dynamic process of constant negotiation and reordering of authority, this paper argues, tradition and the notion of community is reinvented in ways that beg critical questions as to what type of citizenship rights and tenure arrangement are unfolding.

[please, notice that Marlie van de Kerkhof is first author, though in her absence I submit on her behalf]

Panel P104
The politics of brokerage: intimate interconnections and spaces of collaboration