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Understanding the materialities and moralities of property: reworking collective claims to land

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The assertion of collective rights over land has been noted as a key form of resistance to the enclosing propensities of globalisation. However, insufficient attention is paid to the everyday practices of property enactment that shape the ability to exercise, and benefit from, rights within particular collective arrangements. This paper uses the example of crofting common grazings to demonstrate how struggles are invoked over the legibility and priority of legally equivalent common property claims, and how such property relations can be reworked as rural space is (re)produced. It highlights how demographic change and shifting de/re-valorisation frontiers problematise established material and moral grounds upon which property rights are enacted, producing varying dynamics of intra-collective (dis)enfranchisement. Such complexities preclude an assumption that common property will be inherently ‘good’ or ‘just’, and instead impel us to examine in more detail how processes at the nexus of property, morality and materiality shape how ‘justice’ is practised.

Keywords: Scotland; commons; enactment; moral geographies; property; rural

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Macaulay Land Use Research Institute, Craigiebuckler, Aberdeen AB15 8QH, Email:

Publication date: 2007-10-01

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