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Seminars & Symposiums

Possession is Uneasiness -- The System of Land Ownership in a Village in Western Niger (12th Excellence Seminar and 96th Humanities Seminar on Conflict)

2014-3-14 (Fri) 1:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Lecture title: Possession is Uneasiness --  The System of Land Ownership in a Village in Western Niger

Lecturer: SAKUMA Yutaka, Junior Research Fellow, Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies


While conducting research in western Niger, it was explained to me several times that land ostensibly owned by certain persons was actually not his or hers. In other words, apart from the current owner, there was another "true" owner. Land viewed problematically in this way tended to be land owned by [former] slaves or individuals coming from different ethnic groups, even in cases where they had inherited the land over several generations. However, the situation was that even if the "true" owner should take the issue [of ownership] to court, a ruling disadvantageous to the current owner would never be handed down. Despite that, when I asked current owners about the authenticity of their land ownership, they showed an unexpected reaction. All of them became nervous without exception and asked me, "Who told you there was a problem?" and frantically explained how their ancestors had obtained the land, insisting "My land is surely mine!" declaring that the story of another "true" owner was a lie.

As an outsider, I must just say that the view that slaves and different ethnic groups are not eligible to own land is discriminatory. However, if they are the real owners of the land, I wonder why they showed such a defensive reaction. Here, the point is: I am NOT asking who the real land owner is, but I am asking what possessing land means in their society.

In my presentation, I will consider of the land system in rural communities in western Niger from the viewpoint of "emotion" which has been overlooked in conventional research. This will lead us to the system of land ownership given to "uneasiness" about others who are generous land donors and, at the same time, remorseless looters. Whether the land is private or public, different from the view of modern Western land possession which excludes others and establishes sacred and inalienable rights, in this village, one cannot own land without feeling uneasiness of others. Put simply, here possession leads to uneasiness.

Brief bio of SAKUMA Yutaka

After studying at the Division of Culture and Literary Studies, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, Dr. Sakuma obtained his doctor's degree in General Culture. Currently he serves as a Junior Research Fellow at the Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies. His publications include Exchange, Possession, and Production: Gift Theory and its Contemporary Economic Theory (Mauss Study Group, The World of Marcel Mauss, Heibonsha Limited, Publishers, 2011; "The Crisis in the World System and Africa -- Focusing on Geopolitics and Culture" (Situation: General Magazine for Revolution, Term 4, 1/2, Jokyo Shuppan Publishing Company, 2012; Gaarokoyre -- Ethnographic Study of Morality and Rebellion in a Village in Western Niger, Heibonsha Limited, Publishers, 2013.

There is no charge for attending this seminar and advance registration is not required. Please come if interested.

Date: 2014-3-14 (Fri) 1:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Venue: Graduate School of Humanities and Sciences, Suita campus, Osaka University
Contact: Office for A Research Base for Conflict Studies in the Humanities under the Grants for the “Leading Graduate Schools”, Anthropology Lab, Graduate School of Humanities and Sciences, Tel: 06-6879-8085

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