PhD defence: Settled in Sand: State-making, Recognition and Resource Rights in the Agro-industrial Landscape

PhD defence

Inge-Merete Hougaard


Across the world, economic interests and state-making interventions have converged to dispossess small-scale farmers, rural and urban dwellers – often through violent means. Situated in the sugarcane plantation landscape in the Cauca Valley in western Colombia, this dissertation explores how life is lived after dispossession. The research is based on ethnographic fieldwork in the Afro-descendant village (2016-2018), where I employed methods of participatory observation, semi-structured interviews, document reviews and audio-visual methods. Drawing on literature from political ecology, state-making and the politics of recognition, I examine how the villagers, construct their lifeworlds around independent livelihoods ¬– mainly manual sand extraction – and notions of community, dignity and recognition. As their right to extraction is threatened by a competing claim, they seek formalisation in the government institutions, only to be faced with a complex legal-institutional framework that favours the wealthy, lettered and connected population. While ethnic recognition and titling of a collective territory open an opportunity for defending their rights, its implementation does not secure the villagers’ control over resources, but rather liberates the resource for capitalist interests. Thus, while the villagers endure through values of community, dignity, autonomy and recognition, political and economic interests continue to converge in new forms of dispossession, upholding and deepening rural inequalities.


Professor Christian Lund, Department of Food and Resource Economics (IFRO), University of Copenhagen


Associate Professor Mattias Borg Rasmussen, Department of Food and Resource Economics (IFRO), University of Copenhagen

Assessment Committee

Chair: Professor Jens Friis Lund, Department of Food and Resource Economics, University of Copenhagen                                                       

Professor Mariel Cristina Støen, University of Oslo

Professor John Andrew McNeish, Norwegian University of Life Sciences


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