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Legal pluralism and dynamic property rights:


  • Meinzen-Dick, Ruth Suseela
  • Pradhan, Rajendra


"Conventional conceptions of property rights focus on static definitions of property rights, usually as defined in statutory law. However, in practice there is co-existence and interaction between multiple legal orders such as state, customary, religious, project and local laws, all of which provide bases for claiming property rights. Legal anthropological approaches that recognize this legal pluralism are helpful in understanding this complexity. Individuals may choose one or another of these legal frameworks as the basis for their claims on a resource, in a process referred to as “forum shopping.” Legal pluralism can create uncertainty especially in times of conflict because any individual is unlikely to have knowledge of all types of law that might be relevant, and because rival claimants can use a large repertoire to lay claim to a resource. However, at the same time the multiple legal frameworks facilitate considerable flexibility for people to maneuver in their use of natural resources. Legal pluralism also introduces a sense of dynamism in property rights, as the different legal frameworks do not exist in isolation, but influence each other, and can change over time. Unless these aspects of property rights are recognized, changes in statutory law intended to increase tenure security may instead increase uncertainty, especially for groups with less education and contacts. This paper illustrates the implications of legal pluralism for our understanding of natural resource management and policies toward resource tenure, using the example of water rights. (text of Abstract)

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  • Meinzen-Dick, Ruth Suseela & Pradhan, Rajendra, 2002. "Legal pluralism and dynamic property rights:," CAPRi working papers 22, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  • Handle: RePEc:fpr:worpps:22

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Edella Schlager & Elinor Ostrom, 1992. "Property-Rights Regimes and Natural Resources: A Conceptual Analysis," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 68(3), pages 249-262.
    2. Durga, K. C. & Pradhan, R., 1997. "Improvement and enlargement of a farmer managed irrigation system in Tanahu: Changing rights to water and conflict resolution," IWMI Books, Reports H020130, International Water Management Institute.
    3. Smucker, Glenn R. & White, T. Anderson & Bannister, Michael, 2000. "Land tenure and the adoption of agricultural technology in Haiti:," CAPRi working papers 6, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    4. Rosegrant, Mark W. & Ringler, Claudia, 1999. "Impact on food security and rural development of reallocating water from agriculture:," EPTD discussion papers 47, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    5. Dixit, A., 1997. "Inter-sectoral water allocation: A case study in upper Bagmati Basin," IWMI Books, Reports H020133, International Water Management Institute.
    6. von Benda-Beckmann, E. & von Benda-Beckmann, K. & Spiertz, H. L. J., 1997. "Local law and customary practices in the study of water rights," IWMI Books, Reports H020134, International Water Management Institute.
    7. Pradhan, U., 1994. "Farmers' water rights and their relation to data collection and management," IWMI Books, Reports H016278, International Water Management Institute.
    8. Meinzen-Dick, Ruth Suseela & Bakker, Margaretha, 2000. "Water rights and multiple water uses: framework and application to Kirindi Oya irrigation system, Sri Lanka," EPTD discussion papers 59, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    9. Shukla, A. & Joshi, N. R. & Shivakoti, G. & Poudel, R. & Shrestha, N., 1997. "Dynamics in water rights and arbitration on water right conflicts: Case of farmer managed irrigation systems from east Chitwan," IWMI Books, Reports H020132, International Water Management Institute.
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    Conflict management.; Gender; Capacity;


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