Tania Li: Commons, Co-ops, and Corporations: Assembling Indonesia’s 21st century land reform


How Canadian bureaucrats make state territory in the name of ‘restoring’ Indigenous rights

I’m quite happy that some recent work of mine is now out in the Annals of the American Association of Geographers.[very happy to send FREE copies to anybody by email or by post if a hardcopy is preferred].

The paper looks at how bureaucrats in Canada used the development of new legislation regarding private property on lands reserved for First Nations to convert Indigenous claims to territory into spaces akin to municipalities. I’ve put the abstract below, and aim to put out a short piece or two to summarize soon; one aspect of the work is its basis in bureaucratic practices…many of which are about addressing critiques within and beyond the government. So I’ll be keen to see what (if any) responses it generates.

Bureaucratic Territory: First Nations, Private Property, and “Turn-Key” Colonialism in Canada


Since 2006, successive Canadian governments have worked to create private property regimes on lands reserved for First Nations. This article examines how the state framed the theory and history of Aboriginal property rights to achieve this goal. It then shows how, under the pretense of restoration, bureaucrats developed legislation that would create novel political spaces where, once converted to private property, reserved lands would function as a new kind of federal municipality in Canada. These changes took place in two ways: First, bureaucrats situated Aboriginal property within the state apparatus and reconfigured Indigenous territorial rights into a series of “regulatory gaps” regarding voting thresholds, certainty of title, and the historical misrepresentation of First Nations economies. Second, the government crafted legislation under what is known as the First Nations Property Ownership Initiative that, by closing regulatory gaps, would produce private property regimes analogous to municipal arrangements elsewhere in Canada. These bureaucratic practices realigned internal state mechanisms to produce novel external boundaries among the state, Indigenous lands, and the economy. By tracking how bureaucratic practices adapted to Indigenous refusals of state agendas, the article shows how the bureaucratic production of territory gave form to a new iteration of settler-colonialism in Canada.


Can livestock help solve the carbon problem?

Late last year a short piece came out asking: What if the world’s soil runs out?

The piece is interesting for a number of reasons that are, in many cases, long-standing issues that affect agricultural practices, forestry, over-grazing by livestock and other changes to land cover/use.

An interesting Ted Talk on this issue suggests that putting livestock back on the land is key to stopping desertification. And that it will have the added benefit of creating a massive new sink for carbon. Here it is:

Keeping the Promise Conference on First Nations Treaty and Land Claims in Gatineau, Feb 26-28th

One of the things that has struck me about the increased attention to Canada’s relationship(s) to First Nations  has been the rise of what I would term “instant expertise.” Not everybody is thrilled with it. For instance, Tobold Rollo’s recent blog post takes the arguments of Tom Flanagan (and others) to task regarding the historical standing and consequent legitimacy of First Nations political and legal claims.

I too have difficulty’s with Flanagan’s arguments, although for some different reasons. I think the historical claims misconstrue, and at least mislead.  This leads to conclusions that are sound (the logic is right) but invalid (the premises are mistaken). My critiques are interested in Flanagan’s co-authored book, Beyond the Indian Act, which sets out an argument for moving towards fee-simple title (i.e. private tenure) for First Nations land.

I will not post the full argument here, but the abstract below will provide some background to how I approach the issue. I have a paper that I’ve been working on, and will be revising in preparation for Keeping the Promise: The Path Ahead to Full Modern Treaty Implementation. At that conference I will present these arguments in full. Until then, here is the summary:

Land, water, territory: what does the privatization of First Nations land imply for other resource rights?

ABSTRACT:  In late 2011 the Canadian Government began studying private property, or fee-simple title options for First Nations land. It began changing rules regarding leased land in 2012 as part of its budget, Bill C45. These types of changes, however, are not only legal. They can have broader social and ecological implications because definitions of “land” and property may affect other resource rights, such as those to water. This paper begins by examining the idea of territory, which has at its roots the notions both of land (Latin: terra) and social power, or terrere (from the Latin: ‘to frighten’). Recent work in political geography has identified the ways in which western states exercise cultural violence through standardized forms of measurement to develop private property systems. The contribution of this paper is its consideration of how cultural definitions of “land” are also part of state territorial claims. Historically, several Canadian jurisdictions have supposed a legal division between land and water. This division, as several First Nations legal scholars point out, is neither cultural appropriate nor ecologically defensible as a basis for the recognition of First Nations water rights. Using this example, this paper suggests ways in which the definitions of “land” required for the privatization of First Nations territory may continue, and possibly exacerbate, struggles for a full suite of resource rights. The argument of the paper is that any redefinition of “land” that is designed to fit private property, or fee-simple title systems, requires addressing a broader suite of resource concerns in order to ensure that no further cultural violence is accomplished through the potential privatization of First Nations land.