Frontiers of Commodification: State Lands and Their Formalization

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Formal property rights are integral to contemporary global- and national-scale land transactions, and prerequisite to international institutions' recognition of any state, private, or nonprofit land holdings. We argue that state lands constitute today's frontiers for capitalist expansion. Using cases from Ethiopia, Cameroon, and Indonesia, we show how practices, institutions, and laws that expunge local rights and claims to land and replace them with state rights have been fundamental to the creation of "new" frontiers. We argue that historical formalizations of state land created the enabling conditions for today's large-scale, international, and national acquisitions of land, in ways that were unanticipated at the time of state.

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