My current research deals with the interaction between land and natural resources, violent conflict, and peacebuilding policies. This research programme has been funded by the French National Research Agency, through two subsequent grants (the PWACCOP and FORPEACE projects), the Institut Universitaire de France (IUF), the Fondation de la Maison des Sciences de l’Homme (FMSH) and the I-Site ULNE.
Over the past decade, scholars and practitioners have increasingly come to recognize the importance of land conflicts and natural resource conflicts in the emergence of armed violence and civil wars. In Africa, South Asia, and Latin America, land tensions are arguably a primary factor nurturing instability and requiring the intervention of peacemakers, development professionals, and governance experts.
Most scholarly literature has focused on the multiple ways in which land breeds violence. As climate change and population growth spark rivalries over diminishing and vulnerable resources, land has become a vector of armed mobilization and a critical ingredient in political polarization. Land tensions are instrumentalized by political entrepreneurs to reproduce and reinforce ethnic boundaries, as land plays a crucial role in clientelistic distribution and brokerage.
Although the impact of land on violence has generated a significant body of work, far less is known about the consequences of armed violence on the ways people gain and maintain access to land. Arguably, war and violence were crucial factors in the development of capitalism in the Euro-Atlantic world. While this observation is far from controversial for students of economic history and political economy, scholarly analyses of contemporary civil wars have largely ignored it. Even more importantly, most of the political economy of war deals with the central question of how war is funded and how these sources of funding affect the length and brutality of armed conflict. Much less has been written on the consequences of violence in long-term economic processes such as capital accumulation, class formation, and labour control.
This research programme has taken me in different directions:
The study of agrarian capitalism, war and peace in Colombia: peacebuilding policies often reproduce the belief that violence is a radical form of action, breaking with the normal course of society and disconnected from the legal economy. This common perception is deeply problematic, as it obscures the intricate ties between armed conflict and economy formation. By the same token, it legitimizes post-war inequality in the name of capitalist development.
The comparative study of ‘peace technologies of land‘, i.e. policy instruments aimed at pacifying property relations: peacebuilding actors (international organizations, national donors, NGOs…) have experimented a number of peace technologies, such as land restitution, community governance, and land formalization. My research analyses the circulation of these technologies and the contradictions that they face when dealing with the legacies of armed conflict. This project has taken me to Liberia, Colombia, and Côte d’Ivoire.
Rivalries for land are not only played in the field of agriculture and land tenure, but also in struggles for environmental conservation. This is the topic of a new research project, launched from 2020. Forests are margins of state control, where political power is put to the test. They are also frontiers of capitalism, previously protected from exploitation by violence and the territorial control of armed groups. As a consequence, conservation should be analysed as a major field in which political and economic domination are fought in the aftermath of war, as well as a valuable perspective on the intrinsic contradictions of post-conflict transition. With the support of the French National Research Agency, I have put together an international consortium with partners in France, Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire, and Liberia.
Past research projects also include:
Check the publications page for a complete list of my research output.