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A comparative study of land tenure, property boundaries, and dispute resolution: Case studies from Bolivia and Norway


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This article explores issues related to land in both rural Bolivia and Norway. Our purpose is essentially comparative: by exploring land tenure patterns, property boundaries, and dispute resolution processes in two distinctly different social and economic contexts, we hope to shed light on common patterns in the ways people in rural areas interact with bounded environments. At the same time, we also will draw attention to important differences in these interactions. Norway has one of the highest standards of living in the world and is in many ways a model of economic and social efficiency; Bolivia, by contrast, is a country that is characterized by extreme ecological zones and is a nation that has struggled for most of its 170 years of independence to both maintain its population at the most basic of levels, and to achieve social stability. Yet despite these significant historical and contemporary differences, both countries share an important commonality: land in rural areas serves both practical and symbolic functions. Any study of the complex ways in which rural people relate to land in both countries that does not take both of these equally important functions into consideration will be critically incomplete.
Content may be subject to copyright.
The data in this paper is derived from research in the districts in
western Norway in and around Bergen, and in Bolivia in the province
Alonso de Ibanez in the north of PotosmHDepartment. Nevertheless, we
use historical data and theoretical generalizations that are valid for all
of Bolivia and Norway to a certain extent, as we make explicit in the
course of our discussion below.
*Corresponding author.
E-mail addresses: (M.R.G. Goodale), (P.Kare Sky).
Journal of Rural Studies 17 (2001) 183}200
A comparative study of land tenure, property boundaries, and dispute
resolution: case studies from Bolivia and Norway
Mark R.G. Goodale*, Per Kare Sky
Department of Sociology/Anthropology, St. Olaf College, 1520 St. Olaf Avenue, Northxeld, MN 55057 USA
Department of Land Use and Landscape Planning, Agricultural University of Norway, P.O.B. 5029, N-1432, Ass, Norway
This article explores issues related to land in both rural Bolivia and Norway. Our purpose is essentially comparative: by exploring
land tenure patterns, property boundaries, and dispute resolution processes in two distinctly di!erent social and economic contexts,
we hope to shed light on common patterns in the ways people in rural areas interact with bounded environments. At the same time, we
also will draw attention to important di!erences in these interactions. Norway has one of the highest standards of living in the world
and is in many ways a model of economic and social e$ciency; Bolivia, by contrast, is a country that is characterized by extreme
ecological zones and is a nation that has struggled for most of its 170 years of independence to both maintain its population at the
most basic of levels, and to achieve social stability. Yet despite these signi"cant historical and contemporary di!erences, both
countries share an important commonality: land in rural areas serves both practical and symbolic functions. Any study of the complex
ways in which rural people relate to land in both countries that does not take both of these equally important functions into
consideration will be critically incomplete. 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Land tenure; Property boundaries; Dispute resolution; Bolivia; Norway
1. Introduction and comparative framework
1.1. Introduction
In this paper we compare and contrast patterns of land
tenure, property boundaries, and the resolution of dis-
putes regarding property using case studies from two
diverse social and economics regions: Bolivia and Nor-
way. Although we focus our discussions on the two case
studies in their own contexts, this paper has an overarch-
ing comparative framework. By placing case studies from
Bolivia and Norway side-by-side, we hope to shed light
on common strategies while recognizing the diversity to
be found in the ways that people relate to land. In
a concluding section, we will draw out the similarities
between the two case studies as we see them; but we want
to emphasize that our strategy is to develop the case
studies such that the reader will be able to make his or
her own evaluations and also be able to compare the
material here with other case studies from other regions.
By using data based on "eld research and related
methods from two regions starkly distinguished from
each other by language, socioeconomic levels, political
histories, and extent of integration into world markets,
we will be able to present a fairly rich picture of how
people interact with their bounded environments and the
various meanings that they construct through such envi-
ronments. Norway has one of the highest standards of
living in the world and is in many ways a model of
economic and social e$ciency; Bolivia, by contrast, is
a country that is characterized by extreme ecological
zones and is a nation that has struggled for most of its
170 years of independence to both maintain its popula-
tion at the most basic of levels, and to achieve social
stability. Yet despite these signi"cant historical and
0743-0167/01/$ - see front matter 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
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We should point out that the data on Norway re#ect a greater use
of statistical analysis than the data on Bolivia. But for purposes of data
analysis here, we consciously adopt a case-oriented approach and we
treat each case holistically.
contemporary di!erences, the ways in which people re-
late to land in both countries are often remarkably sim-
ilar, particularly in rural areas.
1.2. Comparative framework
There is an ongoing debate in the literature on com-
parative methodology in social research, with some
scholars advocating what Ragin (1987) calls the `vari-
able-orientedaapproach, and others arguing for the ad-
option of a more `case-orientedaapproach (see, e.g.,
Bradshaw and Wallace, 1991; Engelstad and Mj+set,
1997; Ferrari, 1990; Ragin, 1987, 1992; Scheuch, 1990;
Skocpol, 1984). Quantitatively oriented scholars tend to
use a variable-oriented approach, which lends itself to
statistical analyses and often involves the use of large
samples. The object in variable-oriented comparative
strategies is to isolate statistically signi"cant variables in
order to establish scienti"cally valid chains of causation
for social phenomena (Ragin, 1987, pp. 12}18).
Qualitatively oriented scholars, on the other hand,
tend to use a case-oriented approach to comparative
social research. Case-oriented research is considered by
some to be the optimal approach when certain factors are
present: (1) when the cases under consideration do not
easily "t into existing theory; (2) a case (or cases) only
partially supports, or represents a deviation from, exist-
ing theory; and (3) a case represents an unusual or less-
studied situation that merits the level of detailed substan-
tive analysis that the case-oriented approach provides as
against the variable-oriented approach (Bradshaw and
Wallace, 1991, pp. 159}164). Regarding this third factor,
Bradshaw and Wallace emphasize that many cases will
warrant analysis in comparative perspective using the
case-oriented approach because they present material
that has been underrepresented in the relevant literature;
this is particularly true, they argue, with cases based on
studies from developing countries (1991, p. 155).
In this paper we adopt the case-oriented approach. We
also "nd Tilly's (1984) argument against focusing too
rigidly on the nation-state as the unit of analysis persua-
sive: scholars working with a case-oriented strategy
should focus instead on cultural comparisons because the
nation-state is often an arti"cial or unhelpful unit of
analysis. Because we analyze comparative material from
only two countries, the case-oriented approach is parti-
cularly appropriate here. Ragin argues that this ap-
proach is valuable because it examines cases `as wholes
*as combinations of characteristicsa(1987, p. 16; citing
Ragin and Zaret, 1983). As opposed to the variable-
oriented approach, the approach we adopt here is both
`holistic and interpretivea(1987, p. 17). Like Bradshaw
and Wallace, in comparing Bolivia and Norway, we are
primarily concerned with `historical process, case
uniqueness, [and] social complexitya(1991, p. 165). Fi-
nally, we agree with Ragin that the `#exibility, which is
the hallmark of the case-oriented approach, enriches the
dialogue between ideas and evidencea(1987, p. 49).
In many ways, like Skocpol and others, the compara-
tive framework we adopt here is a reaction against what
Skocpol calls the `overgeneralizing and deterministaap-
proaches to comparative research that characterize many
variable-oriented studies (1984, p. 368).In comparing
land tenure patterns, property boundaries and the res-
olution of land disputes in both Bolivia and Norway, we
analyze each case in its own historical and contemporary
context. But our goal is not to arrive at universally
applicable generalizations based on these two cases.
Rather, like Skocpol, we use data from Bolivia and Nor-
way in a comparative framework `for the speci"c pur-
pose of highlighting the particular features of each
individual casea(1984, p. 369). More speci"cally, in this
paper we will be seeking meaningful interpretations of
land tenure, proper boundaries, and dispute resolution
by focusing on how rural Bolivians and Norwegians
themselves understand these within their proper cultural
In explaining why we have chosen Bolivia and Norway
as our cases, there are both theoretical and empirical
points that should be made. In comparative social re-
search within the case-oriented approach, cases should
be chosen for comparison that highlight the particular
features of each because of the ways in which each strik-
ingly re#ects the di!erences and similarities of the other.
When two cases are chosen that are based on social
research in radically di!erent economic, social, and pol-
itical milieus, scholars `maximize the possibilities for
drawing dramatic contrastsa(Skocpol, 1984, p. 370; see
also Bradshaw and Wallace, 1991). By using material
from Bolivia and Norway, we hope that each case study
will form `a kind of commentary on one another's char-
actera(Skocpol, 1984, p. 370; citing Geertz, 1968)
through the sharpness in contrast that the two contexts
Apart from these theoretical considerations, at an em-
pirical level Bolivia and Norway were chosen as cases for
three speci"c reasons. First, in both cases, a plurality of
land tenure patterns continue to coexist in rural areas
despite concerted e!orts over the years by national
authorities to standardize land tenure to bring it in line
with prevailing governmental policies. Second, in both
rural Bolivia and Norway, property boundaries repres-
ent more than just practical methods of restricting access
to land; rather, boundaries and boundary markers in
each case are invested with signi"cant and deeper (i.e.,
184 M.R.G. Goodale, P.K. Sky /Journal of Rural Studies 17 (2001) 183 }200
In this and the following sections, land issues in Bolivia will be
discussed based partly on 15 months of "eld research in a town called
Sacaca, located in the north of Bolivia's PotosmHDepartment. This
region, which has been called `the heart of indigenous Boliviaa(Zorn,
1997) is important because most of the uniquely Bolivian land tenure
patterns are still found there.
Usufruct rights are `use rightsain another's property; a `usufructu-
aryais one who has use rights in another's property.
non-practical) meanings. And "nally, the ways in which
property disputes in rural areas are resolved in both cases
are strikingly similar, in particular the heavy reliance on
mediation strategies.
2. An introduction to land tenure in Bolivia and Norway
2.1. Bolivia
Bolivia is a nation of fairly recent origin but with ancient
roots. It achieved its independence from Spain in 1825
and came of age in a time when classically liberal eco-
nomic and legal philosophies were dominant in both
Europe and the Americas. Throughout the 19th century,
most national legislation was consciously modeled on
European and in#uential American exemplars, especially
the United States and Mexico (Trigo, 1958). As can be
imagined, this meant that in relation to land tenure,
e!orts were made to ensure the free alienability of prop-
erty and otherwise support the development of `private
propertyawith all that implies, both socially and eco-
nomically. These governmental e!orts to create a nation-
wide structure of private property in the 19th century
must be seen in the light of two contrary land tenure
forces, both of which predated the emergence of the
Bolivian nation-state.
First, a system of land holding was prevalent in Bolivia
that is called latifundia.Alatifundio in the Bolivian con-
text is a large landed estate that was created during the
colonial era when Spaniards appropriated large tracts of
the most fertile land from the native populations de-
stabilized by various governmental policies, disease, and
other factors. These estates, or haciendas, depended on
the labor of Indians, who migrated to the haciendas and
lived and worked there in exchange for usufruct rights.
Although the hacienda system did not extend to, or
survive in, many regions of Bolivia *for example, the
north of PotosmHDepartment *it did remain an impor-
tant factor in many of the intermontane valleys, like the
fertile Cochabamba Valley in the central part of the
country. The hacienda was obviously a challenge to
policies that sought to create a nation of free holders
*both Indian and non-Indian *because it concen-
trated land ownership in the hands of a very small per-
centage of the population, while keeping the much larger
percentage in a position where they lived and worked
essentially as serfs with neither the ability to alienate
land, nor leave the land they had usufruct rights in.
Second, a prehispanic system of land tenure played
}and continues to play }an important role in questions
of land tenure in Bolivia. In the highland areas of Bolivia
particularly *including most the north of PotosmHDe-
partment *Indians lived within politico-legal structures
called ayllus. An ayllu is a macro-regional, "ctive kinship
unit, that was probably created to deal with the chal-
lenges of living in the extreme ecological zones in the
Andes (Murra, 1972, 1975). The ayllu has been the basic
unit of Andean social organization since prehispanic
times. Particularly in the north of PotosmH, ayllus retain
many of their prehispanic features, including `an internal
organization based on dual and vertically organized seg-
ments, communal distribution of resources, and a &verti-
cal'land tenure system which includes the use of non-
contiguous puna (highland) and valley landsa(Rivera
Cusicanqui, 1991; see also Platt, 1982). The internal or-
ganization of ayllus can be conceptualized as a set of
inlaid boxes, with each territorial and kinship unit part of
an ever larger set of ethnic units, which culminate in one
grand unit, itself divided into two moieties, which relate
to each other as complementary opposites (Platt, 1982,
p. 5).
For our purposes, what is most salient regarding ayllus
and land tenure is the fact of non-contiguity, which is
quite di!erent from traditional forms of private property,
where an owner's property is bounded within a single
plot, meaning that a single, measured piece of land will be
enclosed by four sides, and bordered by other distinct
pieces of property, owned either by others or the same
person. In ayllu land tenure, by contrast, recognizably
distinct pieces of land will spatially `leapfrogaover some-
times great distances, with several or many bounded
plots within the recognized property, but none of which
are contiguous with the other. A way to envision how this
works is to imagine a large quilt consisting of many
di!erent patches. One ayllu's land might include 10 out
of the 30 patches, but none of the patches are contiguous
with each other. What this means is that land boundaries
in many parts of rural Bolivia are not understood by
people spatially, but rather conceptually. Property is not
something that is seen primarily as land divided on
geometric principles, but rather as a set of continuing
relationships regarding access to agricultural products
that happen to be grown in widely diverse ecological
One more feature peculiar to ayllu land tenure should
be mentioned. This conceptual understanding of prop-
erty results in land tenure within the ayllu that is a mix-
ture of both ownership and usufruct rights. The ayllu
technically `ownsaits land, and within the ayllu's prop-
erty individual families `ownatheir divided plots in the
sense that they can exclude other ayllu members from
using them and can seek damages in the non-State
M.R.G. Goodale, P.K. Sky /Journal of Rural Studies 17 (2001) 183 }200 185
The division of land by families within ayllus is a complicated
matter that will not be fully explored here. In Section 5 below we will
touch on this subject within the context of dispute resolution processes,
since many problems arise over land division. In rural Bolivia, where
the land is generally poor, and the rural areas experience periodic
rural}rural, rural}urban, and urban}rural migrations, relationships to
land exist in an almost constant state of con#ict.
In this sense, we can say that ayllu boundaries periodically change
spatially but not conceptually. Although actual boundaries in the form
of rock walls, etc., are shifted, the existence of the ayllu's lands remains
solid and individual understandings of its scope and extent do not
undergo signi"cant change. See below (Section 3) for greater elabor-
ation on this point.
As Klein says regarding the distribution of land on the eve of the
1952 Revolution in Bolivia: `the 6% of the landowners who owned
1000 ha or more of land controlled fully 92% of all cultivated land in
the republic. Moreover, these large estates themselves were under-
utilized, with the average estate of 1000 or more hectares cultivating but
1.5% of its lands. At the opposite extreme were the 60% of the
landowners who owned 5 ha or less 2which accounted for just 0.2%
of all the land and were forced on average to put 54% of their lands into
cultivationa(1982, p. 228).
The 1952}53 reforms nevertheless impacted the north of PotosmHin
signi"cant ways that are outside the scope of this paper. For example, it
was during this time period in which many communities were reor-
ganized into sindicatos, or rural peasant unions, which would come to
exert a fundamental change on local power structures.
dispute resolution system (see part 5 below) for trespasses
and damages to their property. In this sense, the ayllu's
relationship to land is that of ownership. But, although
the ayllu owns ayllu lands and individuals have an
ownership-like relationship to divided lands within the
ayllu's properties, neither the ayllu itself nor individual
members can sell their land. The ayllu is bound by
unwritten customary law to prohibit outsiders from buy-
ing into an ayllu's properties, the object being to main-
tain land within individual families so that the families
can be sustained in perpetuity.Thus, although the ayllu
owns its land, the boundaries remain the same, with the
exception that the land tends to undergo periods of
micro-divisionwhen the rural population swells or eco-
nomic conditions cause urban}rural migration (usually
in the form of sons moving back from the cities because
of lack or work, or returning to their hamlets after the
quasi-mandatory period of labor in the coca rich
Chapare region). In this sense, individuals within the
ayllus experience property the way those who have only
usufruct rights do.
Despite the history of classical liberal (now neoliberal)
economic policies with regard to land in Bolivia, a major
historical event in the modern era was characterized, in
part, by e!orts to modify existing land tenure structures:
the 1952}53 National Revolution and Agrarian Reform.
With the historical inequalities over land ownership re-
sulting from the latifundia system as a principal factor,
the radicalized MNR party (National Revolutionary
Movement) seized control of the State, nationalized the
mining and other major industries, and, acting through
armed Indian militias and rural community organiza-
tions, appropriated the large landed estates that formed
the core of the latifundia system (Klein, 1982, p.
234}237).With respect to land tenure, the result of the
events of 1952}53 and the aftermath was the complete
abolition of the latifundia system, a redistribution of for-
merly landed estates among Indian communities, and the
requirement that newly won lands be titled and registered.
One side-e!ect of the requirement that titles be regis-
tered was the further disintegration of ayllu land tenure
in areas where haciendas and ayllus co-existed. The rea-
son for this is that the new land titles *and the way that
the land itself was measured and recorded *had to
conform to State notions of property, which were
modeled on doctrines that emphasized free alienability of
land and contiguity of parceling, as we discussed above.
But in rural areas in which the haciendas had not been
strong, like the north of PotosmHDepartment, the ayllus
were not as a!ected by the Agrarian Reform because
large tracts of new land did not suddenly come into the
possession of Indians.The result was that the country
can be characterized by two fundamentally di!erent
*and usually opposed *forms of land tenure: the ayllu
land tenure system and the non-ayllu, State (and, increas-
ingly, NGO) supported system, which revolves around
the principle of free alienability. Although the overall
e!ectiveness of the Agrarian Reform over time in increas-
ing agricultural output and otherwise raising the stan-
dard of living for rural Bolivians is questionable (see
Antezana, 1999; SoloHn, 1997), it did manage to destroy
the feudal latifundia system. The unintended conse-
quence regarding land tenure was to weaken indigenous
patterns of land tenure in areas where both haciendas
and ayllus had existed together.
Finally, in 1996 a major new law was passed that was
supposed to reform and revitalize the reform legislation
of 1953. This initiative of the National Institute for
Agrarian Reform (INRA) along neoliberal lines has been
subjected to trenchant criticism in one important study
(Antezana, 1999); in another, it receives a better review,
yet still within the context of much skepticism as to both
the motivations behind it *the desire to make land
available for large centralized companies *and its ef-
fects *less participation of peasants in decisions over
land (SoloHn, 1997).
2.2. Norway
The cultivated agricultural area (arable land) is very
small relative to population in Norway. At present it is
about 0.2 ha per person. The rather marginal conditions
for agriculture make this "gure even smaller. This means
that people in rural areas have to utilize resources other
than land, for example, using the out"elds for grazing and
collecting grass and leaves for fodder for the livestock
186 M.R.G. Goodale, P.K. Sky /Journal of Rural Studies 17 (2001) 183 }200
Sogner (1976, p. 185) describes the Norwegian farmer and the cottar
in this way: `The farmer (called in Norwegian bonde, gardsmann or
oppsitter) was a man who lived in one place and supported his family by
working a farm. His farm was taxed on the basis of a certain assessed
value and was entered in the o$cial land register as a separate and
independent unit. The cottar also lived in one place and made a living
by working a farm, but his farm was not separately assessed; instead, it
was entered on the land register under the assessment of the larger
estate on which it was situated. The cottar was the farmer's tenant and
he paid his rent either in cash or through laboura.
A`farm unitais a measurement used in Norway to describe both
the actual land owned by someone *which can be fragmented within
a given area and, importantly, non-contiguous *and the rights of the
same property owner, which include rights over his own property, but
also sometimes rights to use property owned by another in the same
area. The land area portion of a farm unit is usually measured in
decares or hectares.
 For example, it was not unusual to "nd farm areas with only about
0.2 ha per person under cultivation.
during winter. Rural people also cut timber and hunt in
the forest. Farmers often combine these activities with
"shing, especially in the coastal areas. Individual farms
can actually be quite large in terms of area, even though
most of the land is not under cultivation. Norwegian
farms are composed of arable land, pasture, woods,
mountains and lakes. Because of this, one can say that
Norwegian farmers always have been, and still are, part-
time farmers.
In the Middle Ages, a unique system of farm ownership
was developed in Norway. In this new system, rights in
property were not linked to actual tracts of land, but to
shares in the rents derived from the land. In the period
1660}1850 Norwegian land tenure gradually underwent
a shift from this system of owning shares of rent in land to
land ownership proper. By and large, this process meant
that Norwegian farmers became farm owners. Kain and
Baigent (1992) give a detailed description of this older
system, often called `the landskyld system.a`Landskylda
originated as the yearly rent of the farm in proportion to
its size and value, payable in leases to the owners of the
land. `Skylda, a measure of the value of land rather than
the land itself, became the object of possession and lease.
As Kain and Baigent describe, toward the end of the 19th
century `skyldalost most of its functions as the basis for
taxation, and taxation and valuation disappeared from
the cadaster completely in 1980 when a new register
replaced the old.
Accordingly, the structure of Norwegian peasant so-
ciety changed through this evolution in land tenure,
especially during the 18th century. It evolved from a rela-
tively homogenous peasant society *in terms of land
tenure *to a strati"ed society where di!erent types of
land holders came into being, for example freeholders
and cottars (Sogner, 1976).
The ownership of agricultural units before the
transition to freeholding was typically divided among
many people, but there was, according to Sogner (182),
great stability and continuity in the actual boundaries of
the units themselves. A unit might have had many owners
without this leading to it being physically divided.
The enclosure movement, in the sense of consolidation
of fragmented holdings, came to Norway later than to the
other Scandinavian countries; for example, by 1800, the
enclosure movement was well-established in Sweden and
Denmark (T+nnesson, 1981). This is signi"cant in light of
the fact that it was not until 1821 that Norway's land
consolidation system was o$cially created, and not until
the end of the 1850s that the actual land consolidation
process gathered noticeable momentum (for more on
land consolidation, see below).
During the 19th century a long-standing drive towards
full occupancy was completed in Norwegian agriculture,
and the owner-operator became "rmly established as the
dominant type of farmer (Sevatdal, 1986a). Today, more
than 96% of all farm units are owned by private owners.
There are also three main types of commons in Norway:
state common land, parish common land, and land joint-
ly owned by estates.
Norway's farm units are small (in the sense of arable
land). Jacoby's (1959) comparative analysis of land con-
solidation in Europe concluded that Norway was one of
the countries in which subdivision has been relatively
extreme and where e!ective controls of subdivision had
been introduced relatively late (in 1955). The average size
was 8.4 ha in 1983 (Agricultural Statistics, Norway, 1983).
Furthermore, the actual number of farm units has de-
creased in Norway since the mid-1950s. The overriding
goal in Norwegian land policy is to create, and then
ensure the stability of, economically viable farm units.
Agriculture is still heavily regulated and subsidized by
the government; it is also highly mechanized.
To understand the structure of property boundaries of
`out"eldsaand `in"eldsain Norway, it is important to
understand that many farms have shares in jointly owned
estates. More than 50,000 farms hold shares in some sort
of commons (Sevatdal, 1998). In these cases, the in"elds
are individualized and the out"elds are kept in joint
ownership. Each new farm established by a subdivision
gets a share in the out"elds. The various uses (grazing,
hunting, "shing) of the out"elds are treated as an estate
and are subdivided in various ways. One therefore "nds
di!erent layers of property boundaries in the same area
and this fact also complicates e!orts to alter land use
patterns in area that feature this `dualaproperty divis-
ion. But it is always possible for one or several share-
holders to apply for land consolidation.
The predominant settlement pattern in Norway was
historically comprised of the single farm, and even
though the farm areas were large in terms of actual
hectares, most of the areas were often not under cultiva-
tion. The successive subdivisions of farms, clustered
villages, and hamlets has been substantial, particularly in
M.R.G. Goodale, P.K. Sky /Journal of Rural Studies 17 (2001) 183 }200 187
 See fn. 9 on what a farm unit encompasses.
 Land consolidation as a process was established by acts of parlia-
ment in Norway in 1821 and 1857. It allowed parties to apply for
consolidation to dissolve joint ownership and, in order to reduce
fragmentation, to reallocate property through the exchange of land
(1857). The "rst land consolidation court was established in 1859. In
this "rst period after the establishment of the formal court system
(1859}1897), there were no formal requirements for the judges'training,
but they typically had some knowledge of land consolidation proced-
ures, the layout of farm areas, surveying, and mapping. In 1897 the
Agricultural University started to give formal courses in land consoli-
dation. In 1935 the land consolidation courts were further charged with
adjudicating very speci"c cases regarding the marking and description
of property boundaries. In 1979, the Highways Department and the
Norwegian State Railway received permission to begin applying for
land consolidation when circumstances became `unfavorableaas a re-
sult of building, improvement, maintenance, and operation of public
roads and railways. And "nally, in December 1998, the most recent
major change to the body of land consolidation legislation was passed.
Public authorities can now apply for land consolidation in connection
with general, non-agricultural development in agricultural areas, `natu-
ralaareas, or recreational areas.
the coastal and the fjord areas. In these areas, whole
villages have been dispersed through the process of land
consolidation. The a!ected settlements have largely been
transformed from traditional villages to clusters of single
farms (with the farmstead being moved out of the village).
The leasing of land has grown from minor importance
in the "rst half of the 20th century to playing a major role
today in Norway's land tenure system. The leases in the
"rst half of the 20th century were often between the
owner and successor, usually between father and son.
This was a normal part of the transfer of ownership from
one generation to the next. Leases typically covered the
entire farm unit. Today, by contrast, leases are character-
ized by informality *the contracts are often oral *and
usually cover short periods of time, usually from year-
to-year, but they are often prolonged. In addition, leases
in recent years in Norway have covered the arable land
only, not the farmstead, forest land, or use rights on
adjoining property.
A recent report presented to the Norwegian parlia-
ment (Stortingsmelding No. 19 [1999}2000]) shows that
the number of farms understood as property units has
been stable in recent years, but the number of activefarm
units (agricultural enterprises) has been decreasing. Fur-
ther, the number of farms with fewer than 20 ha has been
decreasing, but the number of farms with more than
20 ha has been increasing. On average each farmer `oper-
ateda(owned or leased) 13.5 ha in 1998, which is an
increase of 3.5 ha since 1985. In 1999 21% of the farms in
Norway were leased. In addition, over 90% of all trans-
fers of agricultural and forest lands take place within the
same extended family. This fact *together with an
o$cial policy of price regulations regarding transfers of
such land *means that there are fewer alterations of
property boundaries than would otherwise be the case.
Another factor that has a!ected the land tenure struc-
ture in Norway is the right of `family privilegea(odel-
srett), which has played an important role in the history
of Norwegian land tenure. In Norway kinship has always
been fundamental to land tenure and land ownership.
Traditionally, farms were thought not to belong to indi-
viduals only, but to all related kindred if the farm had
been in the possession of a family for a certain period of
time (at present this period is 20 years). In practice, this
means that if the farm for some reason is sold to someone
outside the family, members of the family, following a set
order of priority, are entitled to claim it back. The claim
must be made within two years after the transfer. This is
a very old right and it is recognized in the National
Constitution (section 107). Because of this system most of
the transactions related to farms take place within ex-
tended families (over 90%).
Land consolidation in Norway is normally carried out
for all the holdings in a speci"c, geographically limited
*but de"ned *area. The size and scope of land
consolidation varies from minor adjustments of bound-
aries between two holdings, to complete a rearrangement
of hundreds of holdings with planning and investment in
the new resulting infrastructure. At a fundamental level,
the land consolidation process is intended to restructure
outdated or ine$cient ownership patterns.
One of the main techniques that Norway's land con-
solidation courts have traditionally used has been the
dissolution of the joint ownership patterns through
which land and use rights are jointly owned by estates.
This strategy was based on the o$cial doctrine that
ownership in rural Norway should be individualized at
all levels whenever possible. Land consolidation judges
were taught that individualization of ownership in the
in"elds also `rationalizedafarming in the out"elds. Both
the practice of dissolution, and the underlying attitudes
toward the commons in general by policy-makers and
judges, have changed. Currently, the trend is to regulate
areas that are subject to joint use by estates, but not
transform them into individualized plots.
Finally, we should mention that Norway has a com-
puterized cadastre that consists of both a land informa-
tion system and parcel maps. These two elements are not
yet fully integrated. The land information system itself is
divided into two parts: the judicial Real Estate Register
and the Land Register (Larsson, 1991).
3. Importance of property boundaries
3.1. Bolivia
Sacaca is in many ways a typical town in the north of
Bolivia's PotosmHDepartment. Created in the 1570s, dur-
ing Viceroy Toledo's infamous `reductionsa*in which
thousands of ayllu-dwelling Indians were forced, or
188 M.R.G. Goodale, P.K. Sky /Journal of Rural Studies 17 (2001) 183 }200
 `Hamletais the best word in English to describe the aggregations
of families who live outside Sacaca in the province. The words `towna
or `villageaconvey a sense of size and structure that is inappropriate as
applied to these aggregations. The hamlet dwellers themselves use
words in either Quechua or Aymara to describe where they live; in
Quechua, the word `llajtaais used, preceded by the name of the hamlet,
for example `Jankarachi llajta.aBut llajta is best translated as `placea,
which is not de"nite enough for wider application. The Spanish words
used in Alonso de Ibanez for the hamlets are either `ranchua(a
Quechuazation of `ranchoa)or`estanciaa(`farm or cattle rancha);
`comunidada(`communitya) is also sometimes used. Because these
Spanish words are used in legal documents, they have been widely
adopted by the people in the hamlets themselves, to the point where
they have replaced `llajtaawith either `ranchuaor `estanciaawhen
discussing their hamlets among themselves.
 Although both `ranchuaand `estanciaaare used interchangeably
by the authorities in Sacaca and at the regional and national levels to
refer to the ayllu hamlets in Alonso de Ibanez, the terms are not
synonymous to the hamlet dwellers themselves, a fact that seems to
have been overlooked by both Bolivian census workers and researchers
(both Bolivian and foreign). To the runa (`the peopleain Quechua, the
term used by people in many parts of the Quechua-speaking highlands
to refer to themselves in their own language, which they call runa simi,
`language of the peoplea), both ranchu and estancia can refer to their
hamlets according to common usage (see fn. 13). But the word ranchu is
reserved for the bigger of the hamlets, usually one of the major cantonal
centers (Bolivia's political jurisdictions are based on the French model,
hence the smallest unit is the canton). Estancia is used for everything
else. The confusion lies in the fact that strict guidelines are not used
when calling one hamlet a ranchu or estancia; one just `knowsawhich
hamlets are ranchus and which are estancias, and this intuitive know-
ledge can only be accessed by asking people in as many hamlets as
possible. Although he did research in 40 out of the approximately 200
hamlets, Goodale is still unable to list a de"nite set of criteria in this
regard. Despite this, it is possible to say that most of the hamlets that
are called ranchus have 30 or more families in them (the unit of
measurement for people when describing the size of their hamlets).
Fig. 1. Photograph of typical hamlet in Alonso de Ibanez, Bolivia.
`reduceda, into the Spanish-style towns that are found
throughout the Andes *it is the capital of the province
Alonso de Ibanez. The 1992 Bolivian census lists the
population of the town of Sacaca itself at about 2000
people; the remainder of the province's 21,000 people live
in the almost 200 hamlets spread over the province
(Instituto Nacional de EstadmHsticas, 1992). Sacaca is one
of the only towns in the province that has regular motor-
ized transportation to a major city (Oruro) and it features
electricity (since the early 1980s), potable water, and, as of
the early 1990s, television. The town itself is surrounded
by "elds that are owned by the townspeople and the
"elds are usually separated by stone walls on all four
sides. Because Sacaca, like the rest of the region, is at such
a high altitude (about 3620 m), crop production is limited
to the high altitude cultivars like potatoes and quinoa,
with crops like corn being grown in a few of the prov-
ince's lower intermontane valleys. Apart from agricul-
ture, townspeople, like everyone in the province, have an
assortment of animals which they pasture, including
llamas, cattle, sheep, goats, burros, and pigs.
But outside of Sacaca, where the ayllus are predomi-
nant and people live in hamlets of varying sizes, the
picture is di!erent. The hamlets lie at varying distances
from Sacaca, and the distances are measured in
`leaguesa, a league being understood in the region as the
distance that a healthy adult can walk in 1 h (it works out
to about 5 km). The closest hamlets are at about 1 league
from Sacaca and the farthest are at about 15 leagues or
more (see Fig. 1). Throughout the province, the soil is
generally poor because of both the high altitude and
overgrazing by Old World animals (who tend to pull
plants up by their roots, as opposed to llamas, who eat
the stems and leave the plant intact); periods of micro-
division of land also impoverish the soil because of the
pressure to plant in "elds that have not lain fallow long
All of the hamlets are also part of an ayllu (see above).
Individual families within hamlets have plots of land near
the hamlet and at varying distances from the hamlet
based on the non-contiguous ayllu land tenure structure.
Families almost always use rocks to create boundaries,
and, like in Sacaca, they usually erect rock walls on four
sides of their "elds. But this is not always the case. In
many areas *usually in "elds not directly adjacent to
the hamlet itself *"elds are placed at such steep angles
that rock walls are not possible. In such cases, often the
side located closest to the route of access will be walled
with a short structure that marks the location of the "eld
more than serves as a barrier to entry; the other sides,
sometimes located #ush against a sheer cli!, will be left
open. Even though a casual glance over the province's
topography reveals a forbidding, steep, eroded, moon-
like landscape, on closer inspection it becomes clear that
nearly all surface space that is not vertical or close to it is
either under seed, or lying fallow. Given the almost
endless diversity in locations for "elds, therefore, it is not
surprising that the types of property boundaries are also
But having said this, it is true that whenever possible
a person from the hamlets will bound a "eld on all four
sides with rock walls, and this is done for one simple
reason: rock walls are the best way *and really only
M.R.G. Goodale, P.K. Sky /Journal of Rural Studies 17 (2001) 183 }200 189
Fig. 2. Bounded "eld in Alonso de Ibanez, Bolivia.
Fig. 3. Bounded "eld in Alonso de Ibanez, Bolivia.
Fig. 4. Stone boundary marker, notched with a cross, Norway.
way, given the almost complete absence of wood *of
keeping wandering animals from invading "elds (see
Figs. 2 and 3). `Invasionsa(as they say) of "elds by
animals, and the resulting damage they do in the form of
trampling and eating crops, are the single most common
source of intra-hamlet con#ict in Alonso de Ibanez. In
some areas, small plants with very sharp thorns are
sometimes used in place of rock walls, but these are not
as e!ective as rocks against animal invasions.
The reason why "eld boundaries are so important is
that a small herd of goats, for example, can cause damage
that can be literally life-threatening for an entire family.
Although an emergency system of sorts exists within
hamlets, and even within individual families, for food
shortages, the destruction of a signi"cant part of a year's
crop provokes a serious crisis. And this problem is com-
pounded by the fact that animals are very often given to
small children as young as "ve-years-old to herd. Even
though children `grow upamuch faster in rural Bolivia
than in other places *and the fact that they face severe
physical reprisals for negligence *these child-herders
very often let their animals wander into other people's
"elds. And it is not only children who allow their animals
to damage others'"elds; although not as common, older
people who are tending animals will sometimes allow
them to invade another's"eld. This type of invasion
usually occurs during festivals when there is widespread
heavy drinking.
3.2. Norway
Rural Norwegians have used boundary markers for
a very long time, and there is evidence of this in legisla-
tion from the present to the early Middle Ages; the use of
boundary markers has been fundamental in Norwegian
land tenure for at least 1000 years. In recent years,
boundary markers have been modernized, and aluminum
pegs and computerized coordinates have replaced old
markers and descriptions. However, many di!erent types
of property boundary markers are still used in rural
areas. The types of boundary markers will vary with the
time the property was established, the rural district they
are in, and they will even vary in the present between
di!erent land surveyors in the same district. Some
boundary markers are very di$cult to discern because
they blend into the natural landscape or are relatively
small, or known only to those for whom they are immedi-
ately relevant. Other boundary markers can be seen from
a long distance; for example, it was a common practice in
some districts for surveyors to cut o!the top of a tree
(often a pine) in order to mark property divisions.
The issue of moving boundary markers is a very deli-
cate one in rural Norway and has been the cause of
countless disputes and even violence in some cases. By
customary practice, a boundary marker will be a large
stone (sometimes notched with a cross; see Fig. 4) that is
further marked by the presence of two `witnessesa(vit-
ner), which are usually smaller stones placed to either side
of the larger one. The unauthorized moving of boundary
190 M.R.G. Goodale, P.K. Sky /Journal of Rural Studies 17 (2001) 183 }200
 See, e.g., Cli!ord (1997); Friedland and Boden (1994); Gupta and
Ferguson (1997a, b); Morely and Robbins (1995).
 These issues have received careful attention through the years from
other scholars besides those cited in fn. 15. Yi-fu Tuan's work has been
fundamental in this regard (see, e.g., Tuan, 1974). Robert Sack has also
explored the issues of space/place from within geography (Sack, 1980,
1992). The 1991 English translation of Lefebvre's great work on `the
production of spaceaapproaches these issues from the point of view of
philosophy (Lefebvre, 1991). Finally, Blomley's 1994 work examines
issues of space/place from a legal perspective, or, more speci"cally, from
within what he calls `critical legal geographya(Blomley, 1994).
markers is both illegal under Norwegian law (indeed, it is
a serious crime) and a violation of long-standing local
customary practices in all rural districts. Because of the
inherent delicacy and powerfully charged nature of the
issue, it is not surprising that neighbors will sometimes
accuse each other of moving boundary markers surrepti-
tiously. When this happens, there are several ways in
which this type of dispute is resolved (see below, Section 5).
Throughout rural Norway, boundary markers from
very ancient times can be found alongside more modern
markers. Although farmers do not oppose the introduc-
tion of modern markers, they will continue to adhere to
older markers as long as they are not moved or destroyed
or superceded by newer ones. For example, one can "nd
boreholes, stones notched with crosses, stone hedges, and
other older styles of boundary marker used along with
more consciously standardized styles, like pegs of alumi-
num with symbols that indicate which authority was
responsible for erecting the boundary marker (land con-
solidation court, municipality, etc.).
Finally, property boundary descriptions in rural Nor-
way are usually dependent on a special topographical
feature that the surveyor decides on, for instance the edge
of a precipice or the deepest channel at the bottom of
a river. However, the high number of disputes over
boundaries in Norway indicates that despite attempts to
use special topographical features by o$cials, both the
resulting boundary descriptions, and the use of boundary
markers the accompanies it, are never full-proof enough to
prevent validly di!erent interpretations by parties who
later have con#icting interests in the property in question.
In the next section, the cultural meanings associated
with property boundaries will be more fully explored.
4. Property boundaries as places
4.1. Bolivia
Even though the Quechua-speaking runa living in
Alonso de Ibanez's hamlets use property boundaries
functionally, this fact does not mean that they understand
property boundaries functionally, i.e., simply as a means
to prevent animals and others from invading their "elds.
As might be imagined for people for whom the land is
their primary source of sustenance, the place where their
gods and ancestors'spirits live, and the place where every
generation has been buried, land, and all objects on it
*including property boundaries *can never be under-
stood only functionally.
In the last few years, a number of scholars have re-
visited the complex conceptual problems represented by
the notions of `placeaand `spacea. `Spaceaand
`placeaare no longer synonymous terms that refer to
geographical or imaginary areas; rather, `spaceais re-
served for the geographical marker and `placeais what
results from a cultural process by which humans invest
spaces with meaning, negotiate these meanings over time,
and manipulate local understandings of place for stra-
tegic purposes. Because on this view the most important
level of meaning regarding places is framed at what can
be called the metaphorical level, things like rocks and
trees and villages are understood in the "nal analysis
abstractly, not empirically. This seeming paradox *i.e.,
when one falls o!a wall, is not the meaning in that act
exhausted by the pain caused by the fall? *vanishes
when one considers the fact that culture operates as
a"lter through which all experiences must pass in order
to be understood. If this is true, then it is not only the
more obviously elaborate activities that are understood
"nally at an abstract level *like religious ceremonies,
political events, etc. *but all experience. The key, then,
is not to waste time debating whether or not things like
property boundaries are, in fact, invested with complex
meanings, but to try and discover, if possible, what those
meanings are. The issue becomes a technical one re-
lated to methodology "rst, and then secondly one of
interpretation *what anthropologists mean by `ethnol-
Given this, then, what meanings are suggested by the
use of property boundaries in Alonso de Ibanez? Before
attempting an answer to this, a brief digression is re-
quired regarding understandings of `urbanaand `rurala
in the province and Bolivia generally. In Bolivia, the
terms `urbanaand `ruralaare clearly relative, meaning
that they do not correspond to "xed criteria that are
applied consistently by people, either people on the
street, or administrative o$cials. This situation is com-
plicated by the fact that in Bolivia *and Latin America
more generally *urban areas (described with various
words like `ciudad,a`puebloa), and rural areas (almost
always referred to as `el campoa[`the countrysidea]), are
not thought of as geographical regions in the "rst in-
stance, but rather as locations where certain moral
values, political practices, legal processes, etc., are to be
found. Sometimes one can predict which geographical
area will be labeled in a certain way *for example, La
Paz is certainly always thought of as urban *but most
of the time the situation is more ambiguous, particularly
M.R.G. Goodale, P.K. Sky /Journal of Rural Studies 17 (2001) 183 }200 191
 It is interesting to note that this process by which the countryside
in Bolivia is made the negative Other, i.e., used by dominant groups as
a mirror to re#ect their darkest fears about themselves and express their
anxieties in relation to the First World, is not a universal process. It
would seem that in the United States, for example, the countryside
receives the opposite treatment: it is site of the `trueaAmerica, the place
where real American values are preserved against the corrupting in-
#uences of the cities. Although obviously outside the scope of this
paper, one can look as far back as James Fenimore Cooper's Leather-
stocking Tales to see evidence of this. Although this romantic endorse-
ment of the countryside has appeared brie#y in some parts of Andean
Latin America *most notably during the `indigenismamovement in
Peru in the "rst part of the 20th Century *it has certainly been the
when considering whether a region or aggregation of
people is `el campoaor not. And things become even
more di$cult when one understands that in Bolivia the
countryside almost always carries with it negative conno-
tations because it is the place where Indians are. This
means the countryside is a symbol *in national dis-
courses *of the past, underdevelopment, criminality,
pre-modernism, backwardness, in short, the exact oppo-
site of everything national discourses *and, even more,
ideologies *seek to encourage for the nation.
From the point of view of people in La Paz, Oruro,
Cochabamba, and the few other clearly urban areas in
Bolivia, the province Alonso de Ibanez *and indeed the
whole north of PotosmHDepartment *is without question
`el campoa, and is invested with all the characteristics
normally ascribed to the countryside. For this reason, `el
campoais to be avoided at all costs, and when one
explains to pacenJos, for example, that one is voluntarily
leaving for the north of PotosmHDepartment, one is as-
sumed to be either a missionary, an `engineera(the word
used for the ubiquitous technicians of various types who
work in the countryside on projects), or, a `gringo locoa
(a crazy outsider with no common sense). But standing in
the central plaza of Sacaca, in the heart of `el campoa, the
picture changes. For sacaquenJos, even though they are
very aware of how they are perceived by people in Oruro
and La Paz, they nevertheless self-consciously reproduce
the same urban}rural dichotomy, but this time with
Sacaca serving as the `urbanacenter *again, with all
that implies *and the 200 or so hamlets (i.e., not-
Sacaca) becoming `el campoa, with all that implies.
Because of this, although all of the people in Alonso de
Ibanez lead essentially the same type of life in practice
*a combination of subsistence farming and pastoralism,
bi- (and sometimes tri-) lingualism, religious and festival
practice that is syncretistic *those in Sacaca believe that
they are much di!erent, and this belief manifests itself in
important (mostly symbolic) ways. Although technically
part of an ayllu, the town of Sacaca itself embraces
private property notions without reservation, and part of
this bundle of notions is the idea that property is freely
alienable and separable from other properties without
reference to larger entities like the family or community.
In practice, however *and this should not be surprising
given the fact that land is scarce and heavily impacted in
Sacaca as well as in the hamlets *land is not as freely
alienable in Sacaca as in say Oruro or La Paz. Even
though Bolivian law does not restrict alienability o$-
cially to a signi"cant extent, in practice land is kept in
the family in Sacaca for generations and by custom
various restrictions exist that govern the delicate
subject of sale to people outside the circle of immediate
As discussed above, property in Sacaca is almost al-
ways separated by four-sided walls to an extent that is
qualitatively di!erent from usage in the hamlets, where
walls are only used functionally to keep animals from
invading "elds. In Sacaca, by contrast, walls are seen as
necessary as a matter of principle, because to wall o!
one's"elds is to endorse `modernanotions of land tenure
which are seen as more prestigious than the `backwarda,
mixed land tenure system of the surrounding ayllus.
Now, we are able to bring this section's discussion full-
circle and answer the question we posed at the beginning:
what meanings do property boundaries have for people
in the hamlets? It is not possible at this point to say what
types of meanings existed in the past with relation to
property boundaries, at least not based on the research
which informs this paper. But at the present time, prop-
erty boundaries in the hamlets are understood by people
as a symbol of their advancement, of their participation
in `urbanaideas about how land should be divided and
maintained. Because private property: ayllu land tenure ::
urban : rural, and the fact that the "rst part of each of
these constructions is almost always associated with
more social value and prestige, the pressure to alter
cultural patterns in the hamlets towards the `urbanaand
`modernais intense. The extent to which people in the
hamlets are increasingly abandoning the more distinct
and non-contiguous *even if quite fertile *lands
within the ayllu land tenure system, the increased preva-
lence of smoother, cement-like four-sided walls as prop-
erty boundaries, and the willingness to accede to
governmental and NGO demands to `developa, are all
evidence of this process.
4.2. Norway
In Norway, the user of arable land has the legal right
(since 1991) to receive a special subsidy from the govern-
ment to protect or take care of the `cultural landscapea,
which refers in this case to aesthetic and environmental
considerations regarding land. This right also carries
with it reciprocal obligations not to do certain things that
would adversely a!ect the cultural value of rural land-
scapes. This means, for example, that a farmer cannot cut
down trees that stand at the edge of a plot or in the zone
between plots if these trees are considered aesthetically or
192 M.R.G. Goodale, P.K. Sky /Journal of Rural Studies 17 (2001) 183 }200
 Section 29a of the Land Consolidation Act (1979; as amended
1988, 1998) provides that the land consolidation courts around the
country should take objects that are deemed part of the cultural
landscape into consideration in order to preserve them whenever pos-
sible. The decision as to what will be considered part of the cultural
landscape is left up to local district o$cials who are part of the
Department of Agriculture *not the land consolidation system. In
practice, these local o$cials do not regularly tour their districts to
determine whether objects deemed part of the cultural landscape have
been destroyed or moved, but each district is typically small enough
that changes of that kind would be noticed. In addition, land owners
must "le an application each year to renew their subsidies *which
form a large portion of their yearly earnings and are crucial to their
economic survival as farmers in many cases *and during this applica-
tion procedure they must voluntarily provide information regarding
changes to any culturally important objects on their lands, an obviously
poor way of actually learning of any such changes. (It should be
mentioned regarding economic survival that there are quite a few
part-time farmers in Norway.) In truth, the subsidies to farmers in
Norway are less directly related to the preservation of the cultural
landscape *although o$cial policy asserts that they are *but rather
linked more directly to broader geopolitical issues related to the Euro-
pean Union and Norway's relationships with their trading partners,
issues that take us outside the scope of this paper.
 Because Sky is also a chief land consolidation judge in western
Norway, there is some hope that the position advanced in this paper
will actually be realized in practice in the near future.
environmentally important. The same principle is ap-
plied to stone hedges and streams. Even though the land
is consolidated or bought from a neighbor, a farmer runs
the risk of losing the special subsidy if certain objects in
the zones between the two plots are removed. Any land-
owner can apply to the local agricultural authorities to
get permission to remove what is viewed as obstacles,
and in many cases permission is granted. But the main
point here is that the use of the special subsidy as both
positive and negative reinforcement results in aesthetic
landscape patterns that di!er from what they would be if
only property boundaries and e$ciency models were
A property boundary has three di!erent functions in
rural Norway according to common understanding, both
in the land consolidation courts and among land owners:
the legal, the practical, and the visual (or aesthetic); this
last function is also where cultural considerations come
into play. The extent to which land consolidation judges
and others emphasize one function of property bound-
aries over others is largely a matter of personal attitudes,
preferences, and training. In land consolidation cases, the
practical *and, to a lesser extent, the legal *function
has been by far the overriding concern. This is because
economic viability and other factors conducive to statist-
ical modeling are subsumed within the practical function.
But this is changing, as more land consolidation judges
debate the extent to which a narrow focus on `practicala
concerns *which means factors relating to land that can
be modeled *results in reshaped boundaries that prove
satisfactory to all the parties. In a recent article, we have
argued that social and cultural factors must be given
equal weight during the lengthy investigation process
that precedes land consolidation decisions, and during
the mediation process that accompanies the decision
itself (Goodale and Sky, 1998).
Another issue that is important in any discussion of
property boundaries in rural Norway is fragmentation.
This is the process by which respect for aesthetic and
cultural concerns *backed by the use of the special
subsidy *along with the non-contiguous "elds which
exist because of the joint estates, cause "elds to appear
irregularly spaced in a given area. On the one hand,
fragmented property boundaries cause less e$ciency in
land use, especially when the plots are small and have
irregular shapes. It can also be argued that fragmenta-
tion, even if the result of past land consolidation e!orts,
leads to future boundary disputes. But these irregularly
shaped boundary lines *marked by hedges, stonewalls,
ditches, etc. *favor biodiversity and, as mentioned
above, are also very often important elements in the
cultural landscape.
Before concluding this section, we would like to return
to the issue of moving boundary markers. As we stated
above, the issue of moving boundary markers is a very
delicate one, and accusations and counteraccusations in
this area not only create intense con#icts in the short-
term, but often lead to what are nearly irresolvable
intra-village con#icts in the long-term. Such accusations
are certainly not forgotten in single lifetimes and are
more commonly passed down through the generations.
At one level, it is easy to see why the issue of moving
boundary markers is so highly charged: in areas where
"elds bounded on four sides by fences are uncommon,
boundary markers that are placed (or are naturally
located) at only four points marking the limits of a given
property create a much more ambiguously de"ned area
in practical terms. The illegal moving of boundary
markers only increases this ambiguity.
But at another, more profound level, boundary
markers are also symbols in rural Norway of something
much more important than simple geometric clarity: they
represent an unwritten agreement that exists between all
members of the same rural community. This agreement
says that even though individuals own land privately, all
members of a community are bound to honor each
other's rights in both private lands and the land held in
common. Boundary markers can therefore be seemingly
inconspicuous to the eye because it is not the actual
object that is marking the property, but rather the mem-
ory of rights of some over certain areas and not others,
and, even more, the collective respect accorded to these
rights. In this sense, the surreptitious moving of bound-
ary markers is not so much an attack on the boundaries
M.R.G. Goodale, P.K. Sky /Journal of Rural Studies 17 (2001) 183 }200 193
 In O. E. RoKlvaag's great book about Norwegians settling the
American West in the 19th century, Giants in the Earth (I De Dage,
1927), one of the most powerful episodes involves the moving of
a boundary marker. A group of Irish settlers infringes on the area
staked out by a group of Norwegians, but it turns out that the Irish had
already staked out the territory with boundary markers some time
before. The main character, Per Hansa, surreptitiously and with much
guilt moves the Irish boundary markers to preserve the Norwegians'
claims. His wife Beret discovers this treachery: `No, she could not ask
such a question! 2. It was so hideous, so utterly appalling, the thought
which she harboured; God forgive him, he was meddling with other
folks'landmarks! 2How often she had heard it said, both here and in
the old country: a blacker sin than this a man could hardly commit
against his fellows!aHere RoKlvaag (or the translator, it is unclear) adds
a footnote in the English version of the book for the bene"t of his
English language readers: `In the light of Norwegian peasant psychol-
ogy, Beret's fear is easily understandable; for a more heinous crime than
meddling with other people's landmarks could hardly be imagined. In
fact, the crime was so dark that a special punishment after death was
meted out to it. The visionary literature of the Middle Ages gives many
examplesa(RoKlvaag, 1927, p. 124).
 Because of limitations of space and the purposes guiding this
paper, this section is an abbreviated discussion of the disputing process
in Alonso de Ibanez. The full account can be found in Goodale (2000).
 Women do not typically participate in the "esta cargo system in
Alonso de Ibanez, although there are exceptions. See Goodale, 2000.
 See Rasnake (1988) for a description of this process from another
part of PotosmHDepartment. This intricate system of authority positions
has undergone tremendous change in Alonso de Ibanez in the last 10
years for reasons that include: national legislation that has created new
authority structures in rural areas; the advent of NGOs that typically
interact with the `politicalaas opposed to the `naturalaauthorities,
thereby inverting the traditional scale of importance; and a general
decline in ayllu structural cohesion.
themselves, but an attack on the community's cohesion
which is expressed, in part, through boundary markers.
5. Dispute resolution
5.1. Bolivia
In both the town of Sacaca and in the province's
hamlets *and in rural Bolivia more generally *dis-
putes over land are common. Indeed, in relation to land,
one could say that people in both areas live in a constant
state of con#ict. But in comparing Sacaca and the ham-
lets, there are signi"cant di!erences between both the
types of con#icts over land and the ways they are re-
Because Sacaca is the legally recognized capital of the
province, the typical representatives of the Bolivian gov-
ernment are found in the plaza: an alcalde (mayor),
a sub-prefect (again, because of the French administra-
tive model), notary public, public registrar, a police o$-
cial, and the juez insructor (lit. `instructor judgea;
hereinafter `JIa), a judge who is the second lowest o$cial
in the Bolivian judicial hierarchy. The JI is usually the
only judicial o$cial in remote rural areas like Sacaca,
and under Bolivian law the JI functions as sort of an
investigator and judge at the same time; that is, the JI has
quasi-police responsibilities even though a police o$cer
lives and works in Sacaca as well. Both civil and criminal
cases are heard in Sacaca's court, with a right of appeal to
the next higher judicial level (juzgado de partido)in
a court that is about 12 h away in another town. The JI is
always a titled lawyer who receives his (there has been
one woman JI in Sacaca's history) appointment from the
head of PotosmHDepartment's highest court, which would
be the equivalent to a State supreme court in the United
States. Sacaca's JI is where all matters involving Sacaca
residents are brought and matters arising between
sacaquenJos and non-sacaquenJos.
The JI technically has jurisdiction for all civil and
criminal matters arising in the province, but as can be
imagined, the 90% or so of the province's residents
*ayllu members who live in hamlets outside of Sacaca
*do not resort to the JI to resolve most disputes, and
especially disputes of a certain kind: disputes regarding
land. These con#icts are resolved by the `naturalaayllu
authorities, and/or hamlet o$cials who do not hold an
ayllu political position, but who have a `non-naturala
political position that also carries with it o$cial links to
the State through Sacaca's sub-prefect. Through a `"esta
cargoasystem, most men in hamlets who are not men-
tally ill or obviously incompetent in other ways *ex-
cessive and regular drunkenness, for example *are
required by custom to rotate through both the natural
and State-acknowledged political authority positions for
their entire adult lives, the various positions being
located within a recognized hierarchy of importance and
With disputes that are resolved by the JI in Sacaca,
formal procedures are followed that include service of
process, appearance at preliminary hearings, service of
witnesses, testimony on record, formal noti"cation of
results, issuance of "nes if necessary, etc., in short, the
process in Sacaca is more or less what one would "nd in
larger centers. In the hamlets, the dispute resolution
process follows a di!erent trajectory. For one thing, in
intra-hamlet disputes over land, the disputants are all
well-known to each other and are part of a tightly con-
trolled, organic entity (the hamlet) that is usually not
more than 20 families and 100 or so people. In Sacaca,
the town of 2000 is just big enough to produce a certain
relative distance from people living in the upper and
lower parts of the town, such that a dispute between
di!erent people or families does not immediately a!ect
the cohesion of the whole town. In the hamlets this is not
the case. Every dispute, no matter how apparently tri#ing
to an outsider, is considered serious and is dealt with
The single most common source of disputes regarding
land in the hamlets are invasions of "elds (either fallow or
194 M.R.G. Goodale, P.K. Sky /Journal of Rural Studies 17 (2001) 183 }200
 In the year 1998}1999 disputes over `cantonizationa*the pro-
cess by which agglomerations of hamlets seek to become an o$cial
canton *were particularly acrimonious because of the recent Law of
Popular Participation (1994, 1995), which signi"cantly altered both the
jurisdictional structures in rural areas in Bolivia, and, even more, the
"nancial bene"ts accruing to newly recognized political units.
 In Denmark, for example, 269 cases involving boundary disputes
were handled between 1990}1996 by the `chartered surveyorsa(landin-
spekt~rer), the group charged with resolving such disputes. By contrast,
the land consolidation courts in Norway heard 359 cases involving
boundary disputes in 1996 alone.
 As far as we have been able to discover, Norway is the only
country in the world that has a special land consolidation court system
that is a part of the judicial system. The typical practice in countries
that have signi"cant land consolidation issues is to handle them
through specialized administrative bodies, with right of appeal to nor-
mal civil courts. Boundary disputes can also typically be brought in the
"rst instance to the civil courts.
under seed) by animals. When an invasion occurs, and
the damage is found out *usually in the form of tram-
pled plants or eaten crops *the `ownera(see above,
Section 2.1) of the "eld will simply walk over to the
person who owns the animals and ask for redress in the
form of seeds, help in repairing walls, or, in certain cases,
a percentage of yield of future crops corresponding to the
amount deemed to have been damaged. The owner of the
animals is usually known because in the hamlets all
animals have distinctive markings and everyone knows
which markings correspond to which family. Likewise,
most invasions are witnessed by someone, because ani-
mals are penned up at night and so most invasions take
place during the day when animals who are `legallya
pasturing are negligently allowed to enter another's
On most occasions, the owner of the animals denies
they caused the damage and so the aggrieved party will
then search out the responsible o$cial. The o$cial, who
ful"lls both political and judicial functions at the same
time, tells the parties to come back at a time that is
convenient for all *not based on written rules, but
according to the unwritten rule that the time for meeting
should be as soon as possible without causing anyone to
miss work or an appointment in Sacaca or elsewhere. At
the appointed time, the parties will meet at the house of
the o$cial in the entrance area that serves to receive
visitors (marked by a stone bench and stone table, on
which a blanket is placed to indicated an o$cial visit has
begun). The aggrieved party will bring any witnesses
*and there always seem to be witnesses *and will
brie#y relate what happened. The owner of the animals
will o!er an alternative version if it exists, and if the
owner has witnesses that support the owner's version,
they will be there and will speak. Usually, the fact of
invasion is not disputed, because the damage will be
obvious and someone'sanimals were responsible. What
usually happens is that the owner of the animals will o!er
facts that mitigate responsibility: the owner's children
were negligent because they are `bada; the owner was
drunk and could not tend to things properly; the "eld's
walls were too low in the "rst place.
The o$cial might wait for some days before making
a decision, but usually the decision is made right then and
there. The o$cial will, for example, decide that the ani-
mals'owner must compensate the "eld's owner by help-
ing to repair the wall and to give him a bag of potatoes
corresponding to the amount eaten; or the o$cial might
tell the animal's owner to give the "eld's owner seed.
These decisions are hardly ever appealed, because they
were made outside the Bolivian judicial system in the "rst
place and to appeal them means to walk to Sacaca and
start the process over again while incurring the enmity of
other hamlet dwellers in the process (because of the
failure to obey the local o$cials and for placing internal
disputes in front of outsiders'eyes).
Finally, we should mention that certain types of dis-
putes over land, which are much rarer than invasions, are
routinely taken to Sacaca in the "rst instance. These are
disputes over land boundaries between hamlets, between
ayllus, or between cantons. The reason for this is the
following: although ayllu authorities are charged with
resolving disputes between members of the same ayllu
who live in di!erent hamlets *one ayllu will encompass
as few as 2 and as many as 20 or more hamlets *dis-
putes over land boundaries between larger entities like
hamlets, ayllus, and cantons are felt to require the in-
volvement of Sacaca's authorities for two main reasons.
First, disputes framed at these larger scales have often
accelerated into violence between members of the di!er-
ent sides and only the involvement of a `neutralaoutsider
is thought to be able to resolve them. Second, because
land on a collective level is involved in these types of
disputes, the Sacaca authorities become interested be-
cause land at this level is usually registered, while the
smaller plots within a hamlet are not. This interest by
Sacaca o$cials is linked to the history of micro-manage-
ment of rural land that followed on the heels of the 1953
Agrarian Reform.
5.2. Norway
Compared to the other Nordic countries, Norway has
a large number of property boundary disputes per year.
When a dispute arises over land in rural Norway, the
normal use of land is hindered in several ways: owners do
not utilize opportunities to start building, they do not cut
down timber if needed, and they do not otherwise con-
tinue to invest in their properties.
In Norway, land consolidation courts are organized
within the judicial system. The jurisdiction of the
courts includes both land consolidation planning and the
resolution of boundary disputes. Any disputes concern-
ing boundaries, rights of ownership, rights of users, or
M.R.G. Goodale, P.K. Sky /Journal of Rural Studies 17 (2001) 183 }200 195
 The following are statistics from 1996 for all of Norway's land
consolidation courts. There are 41 land consolidation districts in Nor-
way, each with its own court and related administrative units. There are
also 5 land consolidation courts of appeal.
The land consolidation courts closed 992 cases.
The land consolidation courts of appeal closed 61 cases.
On average there were 7.5 parties per case (the largest case involved
260 parties).
The average lifespan of a case from beginning to end (1996) was 2.7
29,470 ha were consolidated in 1996 ("72,791 acres).
951 fragmented plots were eliminated.
The construction of over 250 km (155 miles) of forest roads was
Over 600 disputes were resolved through either mediation or volunt-
ary settlement by the parties. (A dispute in this context means an
element of a land consolidation case that is in question or is challenged
by one or more of the parties. Some cases do not feature any disputes,
and some are highly contested, especially regarding property bound-
aries. It would help the reader at this point to remember that a land
consolidation case is not like a case in the ordinary legal meaning, in the
sense of parties coming together because of a dispute to have the
dispute resolved. Some land consolidation cases are amicable and are
instigated by farmers in an area in order to create what they see will be
more e$cient uses for the land they own or have rights in. Some cases
are not amicable and are instigated by some parties against others;
these resemble more traditional court cases in the sense of opposing
interests and winners and losers.)
At the end of 1996, the courts had a backlog of 2406 cases (these cases
had been in the system for an average of 2.4 years).
 To practice as a land consolidation judge in Norway, one must
have a specialized degree from the Agricultural University of Norway
(in Ass). The minimum degree is a master's, and the course of study is
comprised of a variety of relevant subjects, including surveying, map-
ping, cadastre, law, and land consolidation. Much more rarely, a stu-
dent will earn a Ph.D. in this course of subjects after completing the
normal requirements for a doctorate; there are fewer than 15 people in
Norway who have ever done this. In contrast to civil judges, a land
consolidation judge is an expert in the substantive issues of the disputes
under consideration, and, in contrast to private mediators, the land
consolidation judge can also adjudicate if needed.
 Results from a comprehensive research project regarding medi-
ation in land consolidation courts can be found in Rognes and Sky
(1998). Among other things, the authors identi"ed 35 di!erent tech-
niques used in the mediation of boundary disputes. They also found
that without exception, the court and disputing parties always phys-
ically inspect the disputed area or boundary. Rognes and Sky found
that during these personal inspection sessions, mediation proved to be
particularly successful. Regarding the mediators themselves, experience
in land disputes seems to be the critical factor underlying successful
mediation, particularly experience in expropriation and negotiations
with land owners.
 For cases involving land consolidation and not boundary disputes,
cases are appealed to the responsible land consolidation court of
other matters, must be resolved in the land consolidation
courts if such a resolution is necessary for the purpose of
land consolidation; such disputes may also be brought
before the land consolidation court as an independent
case. Boundary disputes comprise approximately 50% of
the caseload in the land consolidation courts. Compared
to the ordinary civil courts in Norway, the land consoli-
dation court is less formal both in relation to procedural
issues, and in the manner in which cases are resolved.
Indeed, the land consolidation courts in Norway are
particularly useful settings for studying the ways medi-
ation as a dispute resolution technique functions in rela-
tion to land issues, mediation being the primary method
that judges use in resolving disputes.
By law, the land owner has the right to choose to bring
boundary disputes before the ordinary civil courts or
before a land consolidation court in the "rst instance.
Despite this legal option, most boundary disputes are
heard in the land consolidation court system for the
following reasons (Sevatdal, 1986b): the case has not
developed into a real dispute in the legal sense, such that
it should be heard in a civil court; the legal situation
regarding the land is obscure, and one of the owners
wants an independent institution to investigate the mat-
ter; the land consolidation court procedure has the ad-
vantage that parties need not be represented by a lawyer;
"nally, the land consolidation court has the technical
equipment and competence that is needed for all the
cadastral work that typically follows upon a verdict of
the court. This is not true of the ordinary courts. After
a verdict in a boundary dispute in the ordinary courts the
parties have to request a survey from the cadastral o$ce
in the municipality. Approximately 95% of all bound-
ary disputes in Norway are handled by the land consoli-
dation court (Falkanger, 1993).
The process used by the land consolidation courts in
boundary disputes can be outlined in the following main
(1) An owner may request the land consolidation court
to clarify, mark and describe the boundaries of
a piece of property.
(2) The request is then brought to the attention of all
parties who have, or will have, an interest in the case.
(3) A time limit may be imposed for the submission of
written statements, but the parties may also be sum-
moned to take part in preliminary oral proceedings.
(4) The court session begins, in which the court will "rst
attempt mediation in the case and may suggest arbi-
tration as an alternative.
(5) If a meditated solution is not found, the court will
proceed to render a verdict on its own. Approxim-
ately 35% of the cases in 1996 were settled through
mediation, which is typically the preferred result.
(6) The property boundaries are marked (see Fig. 5).
(7) The court proceedings are formally concluded.
(8) The case can be appealed to the circuit court of
appeal (normal civil court).
To conclude this section, we would like to return to the
issue of accusations over the moving of boundary
markers, a special case that, as mentioned above, is
highly charged. As we described above, such accusations
196 M.R.G. Goodale, P.K. Sky /Journal of Rural Studies 17 (2001) 183 }200
Fig. 5. Engineers marking boundary markers, Norway.
 Even during independent "ndings, the court places emphasis on
the evidence presented by the parties.
 Often an engineer from the Land Consolidation Service (not
a member of the court) will go out together with the disputing parties
and look for the `hiddenaboundary markers (see Fig. 6).
Fig. 6. Engineers from Land Consolidation Service searching for dis-
puted boundary marker, Norway.
 This can happen at times because some older boundary descrip-
tions are quite vague. For example, it is not uncommon to "nd a piece
of property described by indicating that its boundaries `run from the
largest boulder to the south, to the highest point in the south,aand so
 In this situation, the land consolidation judge would call witnesses
and attempt to make "ndings as to good faith usage of the land,
duration of ownership, or any other factors relevant to the case.
are very delicate and usually form the foundation of
many long-standing intra-village con#icts. But such ac-
cusations are never simple. When one neighbor accuses
another of moving boundary markers, the "rst thing that
happens is that the two sides attempt to resolve the
matter amongst themselves, and indeed, they are encour-
aged by land consolidation o$cials to do so. When this
approach proves unsuccessful (as in most cases) the par-
ties come to the land consolidation court and seek a res-
First, the judge will ascertain the facts of the case by
simply listening to both sides. Frequently, this will be all
that is needed, because a neutral listener can often hear
something that was not heard during the intense pre-
court meetings between the parties. For example, some-
times the boundary marker will have been moved, but
unintentionally; this can happen during land moving or
other improvement projects. If this is not the case, and
the accusation of illegal boundary moving remains, then
the court will attempt to independently locate where the
boundary marker was supposed to be, and this can
usually be done because the court is familiar with the
records of boundary descriptions and has the expertise to
use them in mapping out the original boundaries. Usu-
ally, this results in the boundary marker being `re-dis-
covereda; perhaps it was hidden by some natural process,
or perhaps it was intentionally hidden. In either case,
the boundary marker is restored to its proper place. In
rare cases where this process does not result in restora-
tion up to this point, then the land consolidation court
will render an independent "nding about the boundaries,
which might very well result in new boundaries being
5.3. The cultural meaning of boundaries and dispute
As the discussions above in Sections 4 and 5 demon-
strate, there is a tension in both the Bolivian and Norwe-
gian cases between the cultural meanings attached to
property boundaries and boundary markers, and the
formal structures in which disputes over property bound-
aries are resolved. These cultural meanings attached to
property boundaries and boundary markers are complex
and often unarticulated (and generally unarticulable).
The structures of dispute resolution, by contrast
*whether o$cial or uno$cial, State or non-State, ur-
ban or rural *are necessarily simpli"ed in the sense that
norms must be elaborated and applied to social events
the understandings of which have been reduced to a size
and form that can be managed by responsible parties.
Boundary disputes are eventually resolved, which en-
tails choices between various possible resolution options.
This means that the issues involved must be reshaped in
such a way that formal principles can be applied. In
the case of Bolivia, the distance in style and technique
M.R.G. Goodale, P.K. Sky /Journal of Rural Studies 17 (2001) 183 }200 197
between dispute resolution in the hamlets and dispute
resolution in Sacaca is greater than comparable distances
in Norway, where boundary disputes are resolved prim-
arily within the land consolidation system. Nevertheless,
in all three venues there is an inevitable gap between the
ways in which people construct property boundaries as
cultural phenomena, and the ways in which property
boundaries are conceptualized by dispute resolution
authorities. The disputants understand property bound-
aries, as we have show above, as devices with both
practical and, even more, symbolic importance. Yet in
the process of reducing the complexity of understandings
of property boundaries to manageable proportions, dis-
pute resolution authorities fundamentally alter these un-
derstandings in such a way that a certain dissonance is
built into the fabric of eventual resolutions.
This dilemma is becoming less intractable in Norway
in particular, because land consolidation judges have
begun to formally consider the `social variablesaat-
tached to property disputes in such a way that the true
complexity of understandings of property boundaries
can be accounted for (Goodale and Sky, 1998). In Alonso
de Ibanez, hamlet authorities do not formally consider
the symbolic components of property boundaries (as
least not consciously) but it is likely that in resolving
boundary disputes, the holistic way in which such dis-
putes are understood by both the disputants and the
authorities means that such `social variablesado factor
into eventual decisions. For Sacaca's JI, however, prop-
erty boundary disputes are resolved without taking the
symbolic component of property boundaries into consid-
eration. This might account for the fact that it is not
unusual for boundary disputes, especially in Sacaca itself,
to remain almost permanently unresolved, even though
the disputants have frequently sought redress in front of
the JI through successive generations (Goodale, 2000).
6. Comparisons
Several major similarities between Bolivian and Nor-
wegian land tenure suggest themselves. First, both coun-
tries'systems underwent signi"cant changes during the
last century, which resulted in multi-layered land tenure
schemes in both cases. In Norway, lands were "nally
enclosed and the classical owner-operator landholder
became the dominant type. In this sense, by the mid-
1800s, Norway had "rmly embraced the prevailing lib-
eral economic models that called for private and indi-
vidual ownership. In Bolivia, the early nineteenth century
brought formal independence from Spain. The early
legislators sought to wrench Bolivia out of its past and
into the modern age, and this meant, in part, the con-
scious adoption of `modernaland tenure patterns based
on private and individualized plots and the phasing out
of the commons.
But despite this drive toward classically liberal land
tenure patterns, the reality in both cases was that mixed
land tenure structures outlasted these e!orts at hom-
ogenization, and have indeed lasted to the present. In
Norway, despite the fact that private plots are statist-
ically predominant, jointly owned land areas are also
important, in which many di!erent farmers share rights
in common to certain lands for purposes of grazing,
hunting, "shing, and other activities. Moreover, in addi-
tion to these joint estates, there are two other types of
commons that are found in rural areas: state common
land, and parish common land. In Bolivia, the ayllu land
tenure system has lasted through many di!erent govern-
mental drives to abolish it and today NGOs and govern-
mental agencies often work with, not against, ayllus; this
includes supporting land initiatives that recognize the
uniqueness of features associated with ayllu land tenure,
particularly non-contiguity.
The third important similarity between Norway and
Bolivia in relation to overall land tenure patterns is the
fact that in both countries, rural properties (arable land)
are inevitably small in absolute terms. As we described
above, because of excessive fragmentation and subdivi-
sion, rural farms in Norway tend to average about 8 ha of
arable (1 acre"0.4 ha). In Bolivia, because of the com-
plexity of ayllu land tenure, particularly in relation to
restrictions on alienability, family lands tend to be even
smaller, although we do not have exact statistics in this
area. Further, in periods of urban}rural `backamigra-
tion, the impact on family lands leads to a type of micro-
division that resembles the fragmentation previously
found in Norway.
In both Norway and Bolivia, farmers in rural areas do
not often enclose their "elds on four sides with walls,
although in Bolivia this trend is changing as `urbana
land tenure patterns *which place an emphasis on
enclosed properties *become more prestigious and in-
#uential, even in remote areas. Despite this, lands will be
either fenced or walled where it is functionally appropri-
ate to do so; in the case of Bolivia, where the threat of
invasions by animals is real and signi"cant. In Norway,
most lands are not used for grazing but rather for lumber,
hunting, and "shing, so this purpose is less central. Land
owners in Norway rent out their lands for hunting (most-
ly deer and European moose), and so walls and fences
would actually be a disadvantage in many cases; this
situation does not exist in Bolivia.
But moving from the functional to the symbolic level,
objects on the land in both rural Bolivia and Norway are
highly valued and serve as markers of more than just
property boundaries. In Bolivia, walls are now linked in
people's minds with `developmenta, and they will fre-
quently build them where the threat of animal invasions
is minimal. Indeed, it is not uncommon to see a hamlet
member packing in an aluminum door on donkey so that
a prized "eld can be `properlyaenclosed, even if the door
198 M.R.G. Goodale, P.K. Sky /Journal of Rural Studies 17 (2001) 183 }200
 Having said this, a distinction between Norway and the United
States in this regard must be made. In the U.S., mediation and arbitra-
tion are still not used in the courts themselves; rather, judges are
allowed to refer the parties to outside mediators/arbitrators in order to
increase the chances of resolution and, more importantly, to streamline
the process and reduce backlog. In Norway, land consolidation judges
are quali"ed to both mediate and adjudicate, and they do both, even if
mediation is the preferred technique for most cases.
is melded permanently shut with adobe and no one ever
intends to enter the "eld through it. In Norway, as we
have seen, boundary markers serve as symbols of com-
munity solidarity, representing the common agreements
between people over land that bind them together and
link them to the past.
Finally, in both countries disputes over land in rural
areas are resolved using remarkably similar strategies. In
Bolivia's Alonso de Ibanez province, there are multiple
dispute resolution systems operating simultaneously: the
court in Sacaca that is the representative of Bolivia's
judicial system, and the many di!erent hamlet authorities
that resolve the majority of intra-hamlet disputes over
land outside the State system. For these hamlet authori-
ties, the actual dispute resolution process can most accu-
rately be called mediation, in which a neutral authority
listens to both sides in order to facilitate a resolution
rather than adjudicate one. Mediation in this setting is
much more commonsensical, especially given the sensi-
tive personal context in which con#icts in such close
quarters are embedded. But because the hamlet authori-
ties resolve disputes outside the State judicial system,
their actions can still be called `alternativea, even if they
act with the tacit acknowledgement (and approval) of
local State o$cials.
In Norway, by contrast, mediation has been made an
o$cial part of dispute resolution procedure. As in some
parts of the United States *where both mediation and
arbitration have become o$cial avenues for courts
*in Norway the informal has been formalized based on
a careful assessment as to the relative merits of the
various dispute resolution techniques (including the
more traditional adversarial court proceeding). Medi-
ation, which is still considered an `alternative dispute
resolutionadevice in most countries (including the
United States), has been made part of the mainstream
judicial system through the land consolidation courts in
7. Conclusion:directions for future research
By way of conclusion, we should indicate two areas
where we feel future research on the topics analyzed in
this paper could be most fruitful. First, as these case
studies from Bolivia and Norway have shown, re-
searchers investigating disputes over land in rural areas
must resist the urge to focus solely on aspects of land
disputes that can be easily modeled; rather, the approach
we urge here would have the researcher divide attention
between both quanti"able aspects of disputes and what
we have called elsewhere (Goodale and Sky, 1998) the
`social variablesa. In order to properly investigate the
importance of these social variables in land disputes,
investigators must make use of ethnographic techniques
as developed by social science disciplines like anthropol-
ogy, sociology, and cultural geography. These qualitative
techniques have proven particularly e!ective for ap-
proaching the many angles of complex land disputes.
Moreover, these investigative techniques can be used in
more practical settings; Sky, in his work as a judge in
Norway's land consolidation system, has made investiga-
tions into the social variables surrounding land disputes
a central component of his judicial practice, with promis-
ing results.
And second, researchers seeking a broader under-
standing of land tenure, the use of property boundaries,
and disputes over land, should not hesitate to employ
a comparative perspective using case studies drawn from
apparently dissimilar world regions. Although we do not
make the claim here that there are universal patterns that
span world regions starkly distinguished by socio-
economic level, history, and current ecological impera-
tives, there are nevertheless interesting similarities
between countries like Bolivia and Norway in the ways in
which people create social meaning in relation to land.
Even if the speci"c meanings are obviously quite di!er-
ent, the investigator bene"ts from planning comparative
research projects concerning land tenure, property
boundaries, and land disputes in a way that assumes that
there will be a common framework in which these di!er-
ent aspects can be understood.
We would like to thank Dr. Paul Cloke and two
anonymous reviewers for their comments on an earlier
draft of this paper. Their suggestions allowed us to great-
ly improve the paper.
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Goodale is currently a Van Calker Scholar at the Institut
suisse de droit compareH, University of Lausanne, as well
as a Fellow at the Institute for Legal Studies at the
University of Wisconsin Law School. His 15 months of
research in Bolivia were supported by the following enti-
ties: the National Science Foundation (SBRC9807836),
the Organization of American States, the HEA Title VI
Foreign Language and Area Studies Program, the Na-
tional Security Education Program, the Latin American
and Iberian Studies Program at the University of Wis-
consin, and the Tinker/Nave Foundation.
Sky was a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Legal
Studies, University of Wisconsin Law School in 1998 and
is currently both a judge in Norway's land consolidation
courts and associate professor in the Department of
Land Use and Landscape Planning at the Agricultural
University of Norway.
200 M.R.G. Goodale, P.K. Sky /Journal of Rural Studies 17 (2001) 183 }200
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CONTRIBUTORS: Ann Bermingham Richard Biernacki Deirdre Boden Roger Friedland Saul Friedlander Carol Brooks Gardner Anthony Giddens Allan G. Grapard Richard D. Hecht Stephen Kern Harvey L. Molotch Donald Palmer Paul Rabinow A. F. Robertson Adam Seligman Edward W. Soja
Henri Lefebvre has considerable claims to be the greatest living philosopher. His work spans some sixty years and includes original work on a diverse range of subjects, from dialectical materialism to architecture, urbanism and the experience of everyday life. The Production of Space is his major philosophical work and its translation has been long awaited by scholars in many different fields. The book is a search for reconciliation between mental space (the space of the philosophers) and real space (the physical and social spheres in which we all live). In the course of his exploration, Henri Lefebvre moves from metaphysical and ideological considerations of the meaning of space to its experience in the everyday life of home and city. He seeks, in other words, to bridge the gap between the realms of theory and practice, between the mental and the social, and between philosophy and reality. In doing so, he ranges through art, literature, architecture and economics, and further provides a powerful antidote to the sterile and obfuscatory methods and theories characteristic of much recent continental philosophy. This is a work of great vision and incisiveness. It is also characterized by its author's wit and by anecdote, as well as by a deftness of style that Donald Nicholson-Smith's sensitive translation precisely captures.