Land Restitution and the Moral Modernity of the New South African State

The purpose of this project is to conclude a book-in-progress, entitled “Land Restitution and the Moral Modernity of the New South African State”. Given land restitution’s explicit mandate to redress the historical injustices of the old state, this state-driven process is crucially concerned with fusing the “formal rationality” of the former apartheid state with a different and broadly acceptable “substantive rationality” (Max Weber) into a new, if contested, “morally modern” polity. Based on fifteen months of ethnographic fieldwork, in the course of which four concrete land claim cases as well as their entanglements with the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights & the Land Claims Court were investigated, this book studies the land restitution process as an exemplary site, at which the moral modernity of the new South African state is contested, renegotiated and made. In addressing, within the South African context, the crucial issues of political and legal pluralism amidst cultural diversity and difference, the global trend towards juridification and constitutionalism, and the changing role of the modern state in increasingly transnationalised contexts, the book contributes to crucial debates on state-driven land redistribution in the 21st century under conditions of ever widening social inequalities in South Africa and beyond.

Project leader(s):
  • Olaf Zenker (Institute of Social Anthropology, University of Fribourg)

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