The contentious politics of use-rights on land in the Southern Netherlands (Belgium), 1750-1900

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2016 - 2020 (lopend)
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In this study on the contentious politics of use-rights on land in the Southern Netherlands (Belgium) during the period 1750-1900, I examine the socio-historical significance of conflicts about social property relations. I conceptualise property relations as a 'bundle of powers' defined by customary practices, landholding and –use systems, labour- and welfare regimes and rights of landed property. Thus, ‘property relations’ are defined not simply as a bilateral relationship between social entities and things, but rather as a multilateral relationship among social entities concerning things. In order to fully integrate top-down and bottom-up practices of claim-making, I focus on three interrelated ‘arenas of analysis’: the legislative assembly, the courtroom and the (produce of the) land – the actual agricultural fields and forests. The use of the contentious politics-approach allows me to grasp the whole range of actors involved in these conflictual arenas and enables me to examine the different ways of exercising power each (group of) actor(s) reverted to, and more specifically the dynamic between these diverse political strategies. Ultimately, I aim at positioning the rich but somehow stagnating research field of the History of Crime & Criminal Justice in an innovative dialogue with the research on Contentious Politics and Rural/Environmental History.