Contested Global Landscapes

A Multidisciplinary Initiative of the Cornell Institute for the Social Sciences

Summer Institute on Contested Global Landscapes
Knowledge and Politics of Land
Cornell University, May 18-23, 2014

The theme of the 2014 Summer Institute is “Knowledge and the Politics of Land.” In the context of what has been called a contemporary “Global Land Grab” and expanded interest in questions of natural resource availability and access, we ask what role knowledge and knowledge production have played in shaping the politics, economics, and social life of land and land management. How have various disciplines, professions, and indigenous knowledges facilitated and challenged shifting patterns of ownership and access to land in the past and the present? How are knowledge-making capabilities both mobilized and shaped by struggles over land?

We seek to critically examine the relationship between knowledge (and ignorance) in land politics across time, space, culture, and ecology. We are interested in receiving proposals across this broad topic as well as on a number of more specific, interrelated issues, including:

  • Knowledge claims and knowledge-making in contemporary land deals;
  • How and why certain forms of knowledge are moved, diffused, and imposed (as well as those that do not travel) and the wider environmental, economic, social, and political implications of such (im)mobility;
  • How actors negotiate particular and universal knowledge claims;
  • The role of measurement, standardization, estimation, and prediction in both reflecting and reproducing the politics of land;
  • The role of various experts and multiple, often competing forms of expertise in enabling, but also complicating and sometimes undermining struggles over land;
  • The ways that particular social and natural science disciplines are enmeshed in the politics of land management;
  • Construction of systems of innovation, land economics, and the politics of diffusion;
  • How knowledges of state and non-state actors combine, compete, and manifest in land politics;
  • The complex relationship and dynamics between “lay,” “local,” and “indigenous” forms of knowledge and “expert” or “scientific” knowledge;
  • How notions of scarcity, abundance, productivity, and potentiality infuse and animate the production and politics of knowledge.

Over the course of five days and through a mix of feedback on pre-circulated papers, intensive
discussions, speaker sessions, and regional field trip(s), participants will have the opportunity to
develop their own work and acquire new skills in a vigorous, collegial, interdisciplinary setting.

Successful applicants (up to 10) will signal broad empirical and theoretical originality. The
Institute intends to stimulate vibrant and unexpected cross-disciplinary exchange among scholars
whose research is directed to different times and spaces. This call for applications is not limited
by historical period or world region.

A secondary goal of the Summer Institute is to produce an edited volume or special issue(s). To
that end, applicants will be expected to submit a substantive draft of an unpublished paper in
advance of the meeting (by April 15, 2014). The workshop will serve, in part, to stimulate further
development of these papers for inclusion in the eventual publication(s). All working papers will
be pre-circulated to all participants to stimulate ideas, foster synergies, and enhance the quality
of feedback participants will receive on their own work. After participants submit final and
publishable versions of their contributions to the edited volume/special issue (by October 1,
2014), they will receive a small honorarium. The Institute will cover travel (up to $600 per
participant), food, and housing costs.

The ISS is no longer accepting applicants to participate in the Summer Institute.