The Idea

Political power is established and reproduced through the production of the fundamental social contracts of property and citizenship. We conduct research on how this takes place, by examining what political authority is actually exercised rather than measuring how governments fall short of theoretical ideals.

In developing countries with legal and institutional pluralism, no single institution exercises the political authority as such. Different institutions compete to define and enforce rights to property and citizenship. We believe this is most visible at the local level and after moments of political rupture. Yet it has implications for theorizing the state as such. Hence, investigating the social production of property and citizenship is a way to study state formation. We study local institutions that exercise political authority and govern access to resources, and recognition of these rights. We study statutory as well as non-statutory institutions. We are not simply looking for property deeds and passports etc. issued by statutory government as measurements of political authority. Rather, we look for secondary forms of recognition ‘issued’ by non-statutory institutions that represent mutual acknowledgements of claims even without a narrow legal endorsement. Dynamics such as these are fundamental for a concise understanding of developing country state formation processes.

Eight country studies with rural and urban field sites will be conducted in Asia, Africa and Latin America.