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Land and the Mortgage

We are pleased to feature a collection of blog posts from the authors of our new book, “Land and the Mortgage: History, Culture, Belonging” (edited by Daivi Rodima-Taylor and Parker Shipton).

Land and the Mortgage
Daivi Rodima-Taylor and Parker Shipton

The mortgaging of land, a risky practice usually treated as just an economic and legal contract, has needed a broader set of perspectives for a fuller, more humanist understanding. Most of the existing scholarly literature on land and mortgages has been written by economists and legal specialists, reflecting the perspectives of their disciplinary traditions. Lacking are assessments from a wider range of disciplines in the social sciences and humanities, drawing upon historical experiences, cultural meanings, and locally informed perspectives.

This edited collection, drawing on historical and observational research in different parts of the world, is meant to help fill that gap. It examines mortgaging as a social and cultural phenomenon to show its origins, variation, and effects on human lives and communities. Here anthropologists, historians, and economists explore archival, printed, and ethnographic evidence about mortgage. The book shows how mortgages affect people on the ground, where local forms of mutuality mix with larger bureaucracies. Tracing origins of land titling, pledging, and the mortgage in over millennia and incorporating findings from authors’ original field research, the book explores effects of government, bank, and aid agency attempts and impositions meant to encourage mortgage lending and borrowing.  It shows how these mix in practice, in different languages, currencies, and contexts, with locally rooted understandings, and how all parties have sought, and too often failed, to make adjustments. The outcomes of mortgage in Africa, Europe, Asia, and America challenge economic development orthodoxies, calling for a human-centered exploration of this age-old institution.  It must take account, we insist, of emotions, vulnerabilities, and histories of unexpected outcomes, as shown in different societies, cultures, and environmental and political conditions.

An introductory chapter by Daivi Rodima-Taylor lays out basic concepts and discusses the history of the mortgage institution and land financialization. It shows how social and cultural concerns must be added to the legal and economic, foreshadows some recent turns to electronic and crypto-finance, and explores the promises and pitfalls of lending guided by algorithms. The book then turns back in time. Other authors offer deep historical perspectives from ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt, medieval England, and colonial United States to illuminate some foundations and variations of the mortgage institution.  They show how it has changed over time in assumptions about possession and ownership, the duration of loans and debts, the fairness of flows, and the rightness of sacred and secular attempts at governance. The chapter by Michael Hudson describes land tenure in the ancient Near East, while highlighting its fundamentally political dimensions. Elaborating on the history of mortgage as a legal device in Anglo-American law, David Seipp discusses the development of mortgage in medieval and early modern England and argues that the nature of it has profoundly changed in contemporary society where it has become a formalized financial tool with a primary goal of acquiring property. Winifred Rothenberg’s chapter examines, with carefully compiled numerical data, the first recorded mortgages in colonial Massachusetts, highlighting town-country relations, the contributions of mortgage credit to reducing landlessness and poverty, and for many moneylenders, the extended use of mortgages as a form of annuity. Both borrowers and lenders invested in the mortgage and the colony in paper money, with enough confidence to change the nature and scale of the colonial economy.

Turning to modern times and including authors’ own field observations, the book examines the human economy of mortgage as constructed and remade by people in their daily practices. Mortgaging is shown to relate directly to inheritance, insurance, and taxation, as well as local politics. A few chapters of the anthology examine the still little-explored topic of embeddedness of land pledging and mortgaging in African countries in both vernacular and formal bureaucracies. Sara Berry’s chapter elaborates on the ways social groupings, such as families and polities, mediate debt and property. Kristine Juul’s chapter studies the relationship between land mortgaging and taxation in rural communities of Senegal and its impact on property rights and identity. The chapters of the volume also caution against the assumption that lending against land is a panacea for economic insecurity in regions undergoing transition and resettlement. The study by Mette Kusk and Lotte Meinert explores contested land sales in northern Uganda after long-lasting armed conflict and displacement.

Focusing on a different transitional context, the chapter by Stefan Dorondel, Daivi Rodima-Taylor, and Marioara Rusu explores the reinvention of land mortgage in Romania after a fifty-year interruption by the socialist regime. The analysis situates the post-socialist rural financialization within the histories of diverse tenure reforms in the Romanian countryside, and among a multiplicity of formal and informal actors that shape local economic practices. The micro-politics of resistance is central in the chapter by Nate Coben and Melissa Wrapp that compares the cases in South Africa and Ireland where rural landholders devise strategies to evade mortgage offers from formal financial institutions while relying heavily on informal social modes of trust. These chapters call attention to new ways of resistance and novel political imaginings around mortgages and their failures to solve social problems.

The book opens difficult issues of attempted international aid. Tariq Rahman’s contribution discusses the recent state-led, World Bank-inspired effort to digitize the land revenue system in Lahore. Rahman’s ethnographic analysis demonstrates that governing land property in the old city remains both a social and material practice—and despite the emerging elements of e-governance, deeply embedded in vernacular knowledge and hierarchies. The contributions by Parker Shipton explore mortgage as a form of entrustment and counter-entrustment that relies heavily on language, metaphor, and difficult translation. Combining glimpses of the mortgage in Eurasian, North American and African history, Shipton outlines the often traumatic effects of land loss upon family farmers and dependents, warning of risks to farming people and communities as the mortgage spreads to rural tropical settings.  He also shows why the causes and effects of mortgaging, such a uniquely human institution, spread well beyond humankind to other animals.

Tracing origins of land titling, pledging, and the mortgage over millennia into contemporary forms, our book thus explores effects of colonial policies, state impositions, and locally rooted understandings as they have combined and recombined in diverse regions across the world. We hope that this collection will prompt other scholars to devote more attention to the peculiar and culture-bound institution of mortgage and compel them to rethink the premises of landholding, finance, and trust in new and productive ways.

Beyond Binaries: The Social Organization of Land Mortgage in the Global South

Daivi Rodima-Taylor and Stefan Dorondel

Lending against real property is occurring in significant volumes globally. Homeownership remains a principal means of wealth creation for most Americans and Western Europeans. Mortgage is also an important part of land titling reforms that seek to enhance agricultural productivity and rural entrepreneurship in the Global South. The outcomes of such initiatives have been uneven and ambiguous, and remain a hotly debated policy issue.

Our chapters in the new edited volume, Land and the Mortgage: History, Culture, Belonging, study mortgage as central to broader struggles over belonging and identity. We call attention to an increasing plurality of property forms, entitlements, and calculative practices, as well as the historical continuities in the relations of inequality shaping the mortgage lending. The edited collection argues that the uneasy partnerships of the formal and informal, public and private have resided in mortgage and titling institutions throughout history. In an era of intensifying population mobility, agricultural commercialization, and political transitions in many parts of the world, these questions carry broader import. Attempts to institute mortgage lending in many settings in the Global South testify to the endurance of pre-existing authority patterns and recombinant property forms that mix frameworks from different periods and property regimes. Reforms that institute exclusive land rights may exacerbate political conflicts and economic inequalities.

We suggest that examining the social and temporal embeddedness of wealth transfers such as land pledging and mortgaging can provide novel perspectives into the social organization of debt and property in the Global South. Land property has been at the center of the interaction between custom and statutory law in Ghana, West Africa (Sara Berry in this volume). While the economic and legal changes among the Asante in Ghana have aimed to promote individual titling of land claims, family property has not become a thing of the past: “credit and indebtedness continue to create and rework social relationships, as well as enabling and/or constraining economic activities” (p. 97). As the pledging or pawning of landed property has increased, relationships between people continue to play a significant role in negotiating loans and foreclosure among the Asante. Commodification of land has therefore not diminished the importance of social relationships in people’s economic lives.

Decentralization reforms have therefore brought renewed attention to local, “traditional” forms of organization and authority as new, alternative sources of legitimacy and governance (see also Geschiere 2009; Lund 2012; Sikor et al. 2017). Such intermingling of old and new authorities, normative templates, and collective and private forms of property also characterizes land mortgage in postsocialist Eastern Europe. Exploring the reinvention of the economic practice of land mortgage in Romania after fifty years of interruption caused by the socialist regime, Stefan Dorondel, Daivi Rodima-Taylor and Marioara Rusu (this volume, p. 191) highlight the multiplicity of formal and informal actors and hierarchies that define the economic practices in local communities. During the socialist era, most of the productive land was concentrated into state and collective farms, and the postsocialist land reform of the 1990s sought to “modernize” the country by re-establishing private property in land. Land markets were expected to facilitate social and economic restructuring of the agrarian communities, and mortgage was viewed as the primary vehicle for fueling rural investment and productivity.

Postsocialist economic reforms in Eastern Europe were largely inspired by neoliberal agendas that aimed to establish functional land markets, and were accompanied by a retreat of the state from the agricultural sector. However, since the start of Romania’s land restitution reforms in 1989, land-based lending has remained rather limited. The market value of agricultural land is low, and the restitution process has suffered from unclear ownership records and incomplete legal frameworks. While Romania has experienced some success recently with improving the situation with rural credit and expanding the range of eligible borrowers and forms of loan collateral, land reform is still an ongoing process. The recent subsidies of the European Union have helped in creating new opportunities for the agricultural sector, but it is up to the country’s regulators and administrators to facilitate an enabling economic environment for small and medium-sized farms and eliminate blockages present in the credit market.

Romanian landholding has been historically diverse and governed by inequalities and social differentiation. Much of the income of rural inhabitants was derived from informal or side activities during the socialist as well as postsocialist periods, and smallholdings remained intermeshed in broader work-exchange networks. We argue that in such transitional settings, formalization of land claims is a contested and political process.

As Chris Hann suggests, in order to understand land property beyond the formal codes of individual or collective rights, we need to look at the claims and entitlements of persons as members of communities (2003). During the socialist era, new forms of entitlement were created largely through informal practices that brought into contact new and old rules and social identities. Despite official ideology, socialist communes retained and developed a considerable degree of individual entrepreneurship and resource rights outside formal rules (see also Verdery 1996). Local power relations have continued to shape the rural landscape even in the postsocialist era. State bureaucrats have been able to assert their interests on the outcomes of land restitution reforms in many areas of the country, often replicating the pre-reform patterns of differentiation and inequality (Dorondel 2016).

The new ideologies of market and private property are therefore modified by older socio-cultural norms and templates. The cultural practices of mutuality that originate from the pre-socialist times affect the application of later state ideologies in local communities and impact the commercialization of land. At the same time, we contend that the “moral economy” explanation is not sufficient for understanding the reasons for the slow take-off of land mortgage in Romania. Both socialist and postsocialist land reforms reflected the attempts of the state trying to render local spaces legible and redraw administrative boundaries and property rules (see also Scott 1998). One could say that both collectivization and decollectivization reforms have therefore entailed attempts of a modernist restructuring of the agrarian economy, with a goal to enhance economic and political control from above. Diverse collectivist ideas and norms of reciprocity thus endure and evolve through formal administrative regimes, affecting local forms and practices of property and belonging. Land claims and transactions continue to be embedded in interpersonal networks and norms of mutuality. At the same time, legal and administrative devices to manage real property have evolved toward growing exclusion of lateral claims, use rights, and ownership histories. This imbalance has a potential to deepen dispossession of low-income mortgagors globally who use their informal networks to manage their formal credit obligations and extend their everyday norms of mutuality to the anonymous mortgage markets increasingly managed through algorithms. The “new” mortgage borrowers in the Global South may be especially vulnerable.

Distressed Publics: Circumventing the Mortgage from South Africa to Ireland

Nate Coben and Melissa K. Wrapp

Many academics and activists have critiqued the mortgage industry as a central engine of global financialization. Indeed, mortgages have long been espoused as vehicles of liberalization, liquidity, and economic development. And yet in our two very different field sites—South Africa and Ireland—we saw people doing a lot of work to avoid mortgages altogether, driven by a healthy skepticism of what the mortgage could do for them. This chapter emerged from our shared interest in the Janus-faced quality of mortgages in a cross-cultural context. One way of reading the fact that people are not so keen on these mortgage-based political projects would be to see them as the failure of developmentalist and financial modernity–in other words, as the result of a lack of cultural or financial resources with which to take advantage of these financial instruments. We, however, see people quite aware of what they are passing up on and why. Rather than reading failure and lack into these evasions, in our chapter we read mortgage avoidance as creative, nurturing new political imaginaries outside and around the mortgage, often drawing on networks of reciprocity and kin. We invite readers to think through the seemingly atavistic movements that refute modernist policies as examples of emerging “distressed publics”—where the publics are forming in response to the ostensible failure of fiscal and developmental policy style themselves in ways that appear traditionalist, clannish, and familial. 

South Africa and Ireland are very different contexts to be observing the relative inventions and innovations that emerge out of people’s avoidance of, or escape from, mortgage relations. The two countries each have very different postcolonial histories.  There is a very meaningful difference between being the poster child for European austerity policies, and a kind of postcolonial laboratory for liberal developmentalist projects from around the globe. Nonetheless, each has been indelibly shaped by an explicit politicization of questions relating to real property. In the case of Irish nationalism, security of tenure and anti-eviction movements were at the heart of the movement for independence from Britain, while in South Africa the history of apartheid and the racialization of housing and real estate were at the forefront of concerns for a new post-apartheid nation. In the chapter, we examine two large-scale public projects, the provision of post-apartheid social housing in South Africa and the fiscal resolution of an unprecedented mortgage market crisis in Ireland. 

In Ireland, we describe contemporary lay litigant movements that are refashioning nationalist anti-eviction histories to provide “distressed mortgagors,” homeowners who have defaulted on their mortgages for some time, with a rhetoric and set of dubious schemes to exit their mortgage arrangements while maintaining possession of their home under threat of repossession. Meanwhile, in South Africa, due to a confluence of financial and political interests, homeownership came to be positioned as a vital element of post-apartheid restorative justice. However, despite significant investment in initiatives to extend loans to first-time homebuyers, uptake has been limited, with many preferring to vie for access to state-subsidized housing projects, past and present, instead. We found it compelling to think through the commonalities between our two field sites, not only because the mortgage is such a favored policy instrument, but also because the reach of the mortgage is something of a trace of European imperialism (which provided the legal landscape for its transplantation).

         The key commonality we first see in our work is that the private property innovation of the mortgage was indeed shaping new, modern publics; but not necessarily the ones that fiscal policymakers, NGOs, and governments were hoping for and expecting. The publics we saw emerging in the relative failures of mortgage-based strategies to resolve economic problems were compelling in how they played with the trappings of traditionality to assert themselves. Instead of submitting to the rigid hierarchy of formalized debt obligations, our interlocutors preferred more flexible relational dynamics found in interpersonal agreements and alternative networks of reciprocity, indebtedness, and power. Thus, we analyze these resulting patterns of sociality emerging out of mortgage avoidance as “distressed publics.” By “distressed” we mean to gesture not only to the immediate conditions of economic precarity that these would-be (or wouldn’t-be) mortgagors teeter on, but also to a seeming resurgence in clannishness in anti-mortgage responses (that is, distressed in the sense of something new, made old; think distressed denim jeans). We see that projected traditionality in some sense as a displacement of the actually very antiquated heart of the mortgage. At its core, no matter how dressed up in shiny new clothes, the mortgage is a feudal thing, continually rediscovered and re-presented as a highly modern answer for different problems. 

Read more in chapter by Nate Coben and Melissa K. Wrapp, “Distressed Publics: Circumventing the Mortgage from South Africa to Ireland,” in Land and the Mortgage: History, Culture, Belonging.

Mortgage, Risk, and Taxation in Rural Senegal

Kristine Juul

There is a widespread perception that mortgage is still rare in rural Africa, as most people lack formal titles to land. In a northern cattle-trading town of Senegal, I was surprised to find out that mortgaging was rather common, and people were losing their houses and farm plots. As elsewhere in rural Sahel, land is allocated free of charge by local government or village chiefs through a small fee to cover the administrative costs, but it does not become private property. Despite this, local credit-institutions have increasingly been encouraging herders to take out loans, using their houses and animals as collateral. Local engagement in mortgages started in 2004, when various credit institutions opened branches in the town, providing people who were short of funds with an alternative to soliciting money from family and friends. While beneficial for some, these credit schemes have also led to serious indebtedness. From having acquired access to land as a function of membership and belonging, mortgaging contributes to transform people into simple tenants, at risk of losing the right of occupancy if certain economic obligations to formal sector institutions were not met.

Loans and credit are not new to the inhabitants of northern Senegal. Local livestock traders have long practiced informal credit and informal lending agreements, with large debts as a matter of interpersonal skills of networking, trust, and reputation. Furthermore, traditional rotating savings clubs (tontine) have provided funds for micro-scale activities, mainly among women (Diaw 1995; Guérin et al. 2014; 2015). Even with the arrival of formal credit institutions, these borrowing patterns have not been abandoned. What has happened is rather that people combine multiple financial tools in ongoing circuits of borrowing and repayment, where money borrowed from one creditor is used to repay another. Contrary to the intentions of the formal credit and microcredit systems, loans from formal microfinance institutions are therefore not necessarily channeled into new economic activities. Instead, people are willing to engage in formal borrowing to service their obligations in the informal sector in order not to lose face, trust and reputation.

In a town dominated by cattle trading, easier access to formal credit inevitably changes the conditions for livestock trading. As the herding sector is known not only to rely heavily on credit but also to be a risky one, formal credit institutions increasingly resort to collateral that often includes land and housing. Unfortunately, the hasty development of the sector has implied that there is frequently no proper assessment of the potential of the borrower to repay, or precise and consistent procedures for handling the collateral. The difference between formal mortgaging and “voluntary sales” often became irrelevant to debtors, as the methods used by credit agents force debtors to sell vital assets or property to meet reimbursement conditions. This was the case of a small shopkeeper who felt obliged to sell his house to avoid the shameful and counterproductive situation of having credit agents appearing at his shop “every other day” when he was unable to service his loan due to an unexpected rent increase. Evidence from my fieldwork shows that loans based on mortgage and personal guarantees are widespread. The microcredit lending market has been widely embraced by local entrepreneurs, with or without title deeds. Credit practices are therefore not limited to formal institutions but coexist and interact with informal lending practices, often in ways that reinforce existing social hierarchies.

That people engage in credit arrangements based on mortgaging does not imply, however, that people do not resist it or try to bend it in their favor. The widespread practice of recycling microcredit loans into informal loans, or taking informal loans to repay micro-loans, may solve certain immediate problems but does not alter the fact that formal social protection is in most cases ineffective or nonexistent. Frequently, default and foreclosure are prompted by illness or accidents besetting the debtor, or his or her livestock. In such cases, foreclosure can turn out to be a very expensive solution, not only for the debtor but also for the credit institutions involved, given that they are unlikely to be able to recover their outstanding claims.

Furthermore, the weak legal position of collateral creates complications for foreclosure. While plots are owned by the state and the buildings seldom represent a value equivalent to the loans taken, they are still perceived by both lenders and debtors as collateral. The lack of formal titling makes it difficult for creditors to carry out a forced sale. Courts, hampered by hazy legal frameworks, are of little help. In order to compensate for this high risk, credit institutions tend to use highly visible and punitive recovery methods to compel the debtor to comply, and impose high interest rates to recover their losses.

A more constructive pathway for invigorating the local economy may therefore be found in the provision of infrastructure and services financed through taxation. Robust public health care provision and other forms of social security may offer a fairly cost-efficient way to increase the ability of clients to service their debts and limit foreclosures. So far, the contributions of state and local government to the development of public services in northern Senegal, like in many other places in Africa, have been found wanting. This has not encouraged the population to demand greater public accountability. A more progressive taxation system would encourage residents to pay taxes and contribute to local development while gaining more secure rights over their landed assets and thereby to mortgaging.

The spatial or territorial dimension of taxation and its relation to property is an often neglected but important issue. Taxation creates and bolsters sanctioned authority in the countryside through homogeneous institutions and local representation that can ensure compliance with state regulation (see also Peluso and Vandergeest 2001). It provides an opportunity for states and local government to demarcate spatial fields in which they can exercise control. On the individual level, payment of taxes may expand the rights of citizenship, underscoring membership of a certain group and compliance with the state or other authorities, which is likely to encourage protection of the rights and properties of the citizen. Taxation is therefore one of the strategies used by individuals and companies to make or improve their claims on land and resources or their claims of belonging (Juul 2006). The spatial dimension of taxation is therefore dependent on the existence of a land market. Where land markets are poorly developed and conventional land registration systems nonexistent, taxation and mortgaging become challenging endeavors. In rural Senegal, where most land is supposed to be inalienable and is ultimately under the control of the state, neither clear property rights nor property taxation are well developed. Taxation in other forms, however, still influences security of tenure, in ways that may turn out to be significant for capital formation.

Instead of assuming that clearly defined property rights are a necessary prerequisite for improving poor people’s access to credit institutions, it is more important to first explore how informal credit and local taxation practices in rural Senegal have influenced perceptions of property, mortgage, and public service provision. This places mortgage debt and property in a broader framework that connects both the social practices and long-term conditionalities of debt as well as the role of the state.

Read more in Kristine Juul’s chapter “Tales of Mortgage, Risk and Taxation in Rural Senegal,” in Land and the Mortgage: History, Culture, Belonging.

The World Bank, the Old City, and Liquid Land

Tariq Rahman

(first published in American Ethnologist)

Lahore is an ancient city. Lahore is a megacity. Though I can think of nothing more cliché to say about an Asian city than describing it as a “land of contrasts,” I do find the tension between Lahore’s history and present to be a productive one to think with when it comes to the city’s land records. In this brief blog post, I consider a state-led, World Bank-inspired effort to modernize Lahore’s land revenue system. During my ethnographic fieldwork I learned was that despite tens of millions of dollars, years of effort, and an assortment of global experts, land in the old city had stubbornly refused its invitation to the 21st century, instead clinging to Lahore’s tumultuous, convoluted, and still very present past. Why has the state’s project failed? What might this have to do with the qualities of land itself?

In 2007, the World Bank launched the Land Records Management and Information Systems (LRMIS) project, a 10-year, $115 million effort to digitize rural land records across Pakistan’s Punjab province. Recalling economist Hernando de Soto’s view of land in the Global South as “dead capital” whose awakening depended upon the establishment of modern property rights (2000), at the heart of LRMIS was the belief that empowerment in rural Punjab hinged upon making land liquid, or an asset that could be quickly bought and sold. For the World Bank, whatever historical, social, or spiritual relationships to land that existed were worse than unimportant—they were hindrances. Land was an asset to be leveraged against future profit (World Bank 2018). Rural Punjabis were stockbrokers who simply hadn’t yet been given access to the market.

The centerpiece of the LRMIS project was the removal of the patwari, or the traditional land revenue official. Patwaris maintain manually drafted spreadsheets and maps pertaining to landownership in a given area, records that often date to the 19th century. In order for land to be bought and sold, patwaris have to issue sellers a fard, or an official land record copy reflecting the rights of ownership of land. In the eyes of the World Bank, patwaris played a traditional, but ultimately obstructive human role. World Bank reports are quite hostile to patwaris, describing them as “predatory middlemen” and, most damningly, accusing them of “reducing the liquidity of family assets composed mostly or wholly of land” (World Bank 2017b). For the World Bank, liquidity would naturally follow from the replacement of the patwari with a digital system, as the value of long-held but inaccessible local assets would finally be unlocked. Under the decade-long LRMIS project, 10 million pages of records were scanned, centuries-old maps were converted into GIS data, and 144 new computerized land record centers were opened across the Punjab.

The World Bank hails LRMIS as a resounding success. Its website champions the project as an example to developing countries in Africa, Latin America, South Asia, and Southeast Asia, and in 2017 the organization held an international conference in Bangkok, Thailand where government officials and development experts gathered to learn from the LRMIS model (World Bank 2016). And yet, the organization admits that it was unable to completely eliminate the role of patwaris. As one article explains:

The software and the IT system, however, were unable to resolve the land records conundrum on their own unless a sustained and a clear social strategy to include and promote the participation of the ancestral Patwari system within the new and sophisticated computerized system was set in place. The incentives to foster the involvement and participation of the Patwaris to clean and update the records was and remains crucial. They continue to play a key role within the overall governance of the land records system, but in a regularized form with checks and balances. (World Bank 2017a)

Though the World Bank project ended in 2017, in 2016 the Government of Punjab launched an effort to digitize land records in old city Lahore as an extension of the LRMIS project. Through conversations with local patwaris, I learned more about the so-called “land records conundrum” that plagued digitization efforts. As with LRMIS, patwari records in the old city had been scanned and made available at newly built land record centers. However, the system was encumbered by the countless number of discrepancies in patwari records, which stem from shifting property regimes from the colonial through the postcolonial era, undocumented transfers after partition, and generations of inheritance and subdivision, issues that are magnified by the old city’s dense residential settlements. Tracing the rightful ownership of land is typically a time-consuming process and requires visiting properties, consulting with neighbors, and tracing family lineages. Patwaris told me that though their records had been scanned, their own role had not changed, as they were still needed to resolve the discrepancies in the now digitized record. In other words, land in old city Lahore was both physically and socially embedded in relations that exceeded digital representation.

Tariq Rahman’s blog post was first published at:

Read the full chapter “Governing the Old City: Land Records, Digitization, and Liquidity in Lahore” in Land and the Mortgage: History, Culture, Belonging.


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