Exploring the Cultural Power of Land Law in Vanuatu: Law as a Performance that Creates Meaning and Identities

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    Internationally there is a large and growing body of scholarly literature that describes problems of land access and discusses the 'exclusion' of people, often indigenous people, from landscapes. Exclusion connotes the removal of access of people from landscapes and the process by which this occurs; the interactions between legality (often termed regulation), force as acts of violence or threats of violence, the market and legitimation.[1] Regulation (termed legality in this paper) is associated with legal and state instrumentality and is the 'rules regarding access to land and conditions of use.'[2] The market is linked to commodification, the creation of incentives and pressure to individualise land tenure arrangements so as to make land transactions more efficient.[3] Legitimation 'establishes the moral basis for exclusive claims, and indeed for entrenching regulation, the market and force as politically and socially acceptable bases for exclusion.'[4] This concept of legitimation is comparable to the idea of 'the cultural power of law' explored in this paper. However, an exploration of 'the cultural power of law' allows an explicit focus on law as a force for the political and social acceptance of exclusion. It also provokes the question; acceptable to whom? This introduction will detail the extensive leasing of customary land that has occurred in Vanuatu post-independence. It will then return to a discussion of how legality and the embedded culture of the law has enabled this process of exclusion.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-15
    JournalIntersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific
    Issue number33
    Publication statusPublished - 2013


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