The land question in Malawi: law, responsibilization and the state

Type Thesis or Dissertation - PhD thesis
Title The land question in Malawi: law, responsibilization and the state
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2010
This thesis argues that the land question in Malawi can be resolved through
the emergence of a responsibilized State under people–generated responsibilization.
People–generated responsibilization is a holistic, bottom–up approach to tackling
asymmetrical access to, and ownership of, land in the country. This, it is suggested,
must entail proactive, people–based action for a triangulated approach to land reform
involving law, macroeconomic frameworks like poverty reduction strategies, and the
adherence to the terms of governing under the Constitution.
The broad context of the research is that since the mid–1990s, Malawi has
joined the ‘new wave’ of land reform. The new wave takes place amidst the re–
conceptualization of ‘development’ in development discourse through a supposedly
decentred focus on economic growth. The new donor consensus is that land reform
must be more human–centred and foster pro–poor economic growth. It is in this
environment that Malawi adopted the National Land Policy in 2002. The Policy is
meant to guide the country’s land reform and contribute to sustained economic
The new wave is problematic since it perpetuates land reform approaches of
the law and development movement whereby land reform becomes land law reform.
The ‘customary’ space is subjected to a process of formalization and privatization of
the right to property in land ostensibly to boost economic growth. This approach is
narrow and undermines the resolution of a land question. Using the Foucauldian
‘idea’ of governmentality, the thesis examines situations and processes that have
entrenched the land question in Malawi. There is a multiverse of the parochial
interests of the State, the Bretton Woods Institutions, ‘commercial’ farmers, and the
land deprived. The narrow focus on land law reform demonstrates the dominance of
market as value and entrenches the land question in Malawi.

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