Land Acquisition and the Semantic Context of Land within the Normative Construction of “Modern Development”

Land Acquisition and the Semantic Context of Land within the Normative Construction of “Modern Development”

Renny Rueda Castañeda (University of Hamburg, Germany & Ecodemocracy, Colombia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-7405-9.ch004
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This chapter analyzes how, historically, normative interventions on the idea of “development” at the Bretton Woods Institutions have defined a theoretical bias from which land and land acquisition have been represented. On the one hand, the chapter proposes a framework from which representations of land, land acquisition, and land ownership can be contextualized within scholarly literature on the concept of development. The second part of the chapter carries out an empirical case study on linguistic analysis to highlight how increasing levels of land concentration go hand in hand with normative interventions built at the top of the executive bodies of an international architecture. The chapter reveals that rather than a coincidence, policies and recommendations on large-scale land acquisition have made part of a highly institutionalized and ideologically defined discourse that has evolved semantically within selected periods of the history of these institutions.
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The Role Of Land Within The Idea Of Development

Land acquisition and land ownership concentration has become in recent decades a topic of increasing research in post-colonial studies. This has being often linked with the fact that the phenomena tends to be seen as an arbitrary consequence of modern processes of urbanization, industrial agricultural expansion, commodification of land, and global asymmetries in access to financial capital. These settings have in turn created a historical shift in the quality, conditions and dimensions of acquisition of land, making it part of a subtle reality lead in the backdrop by private investors that aim to acquire low cost physical assets beyond national frontiers.

While during the recent years, research on land acquisition has been increasingly linked to trends of land concentration in capital scarce territories such as “Africa, Asia or Latin America” (Ronald, 2014: 193; De Shutter, 2011 ab)1, notorious clues show that land ownership concentration belongs to a global dynamic that in some capital abundant territories reach similar proportions to that of Brazil, Colombia, and the Philippines, known as territorially unequal countries. This in turn reveals that rather than a coincidence, land concentration belongs to an international process of commodification and concentration of property, bounded with numerous phenomena of inequality that expose acute trends within the recent decades. While most part of the industrialized world show little concern over foreign processes of Large Scale Land Acquisition, the importance of the topic has being boosted up in capital scarce nations that often rely on the role of land to renew domestic processes of food and water supply, residential autonomy, and defined cultural interests (Meinzen-Dick, 2014). Indeed with a few exceptions and due to the political events of the 20th century, global land distribution by country remained unequal for most of the industrialized territories with the exclusion of the United States and Russia2. This in turn, slowly revealed the importance of land as a customary systemic asset for a process of national “development”, boosting up the depletion of domestic natural resources on most of the industrialized world, and therefore increasing the value of land and natural resources in capital scarce areas of the planet.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Text Corpus: All text used on an empirical selected case study, to be further processed by methods of linguistic analysis.

Normative Interventions: Policies, actions, regulation, publications, reports, public announcements, and overall customary practices of institutions that by force of time and authority are assumed culturally and politically in societies as norms.

Institutional Representations: Public interventions made by institutions through which they endorse a defined meaning to any object.

Sequency Profile: Proportion of appearances of defined semantic contexts within a text corpus.

Semantic Context: Meaning attributed to words due to the content, form, style or origin of a text, rather than by the customary linguistic definition of the word.

Bretton Woods Institutions: Often referred as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund; they include all institutional structures erected at the end of the Second World War during the Bretton Woods Conference in July 1944.

Grey Literature: Institutional documents and publications.

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