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Exploring land justice: in theory and practice

Sophia Doyle

Sophia is starting her placement at Shared Assets. In this blog she shares a little bit about her research and what she hopes to do with her time at Shared Assets.

I have always been interested in the role that Land and dispossession play in the accumulation of power, which led me to do my MA in Postcolonial Culture and Global Policy at Goldsmiths College. My research is focused primarily on issues of land and food justice, land-based movements and seed sovereignty and I am coming at it from a personal grounding in the places and histories I grew up in and live in (rural Bavaria in Germany, Ireland and currently London). 

When I moved to London I got involved with the London Freedom Seed Bank, a London-wide network of seed savers sharing open-pollinated seed, where I am one of the co-directors. I am using my dissertation to explore the Seed Bank’s collaborative data project as a project of knowledge commoning as well as a digital space of encounter between growers and the seeds they steward, a way of keeping and telling their stories. 

The pandemic, the Movement for Black Lives, debates about prison/penal abolition and the large-scale political mobilisation of land-workers globally over the past year have clearly shown how racial capitalism depends on the continued dispossession of people(s) from their Land and means of subsistence. Focusing on Land as a pillar for liberation directly challenges these structures and their legitimising narratives and unsettles the systems of value and property relations upon which our societies are built. 

I see Land as a living metabolic system which humans are integrated into, albeit in different scales and most importantly with very different effects, and I am interested to explore how an approach to land as “commons” can either facilitate or obscure this relationship. After hearing about the work that Shared Assets does towards “common good land use” while attending the launch event of the ‘Power in Place’ report I got in touch and arranged this placement with them to gain further insight into the landscape of land justice activism in the UK. 

The placement is part of my MA. Its purpose is to experience and reflect on the processes of how the critical theory we engage with throughout the programme works in organising and activist practice, and on the tensions and conflicts that arise in the process of this translation. 

I am very interested to learn how Shared Assets works as a “think and do tank” and the extent to which its practice-based approach can enable practical engagement to inform critical theory and policy, in order to create land management systems that are decolonial, anti-racist, accessible and healthy. 

In my time with Shared Assets I will be observing how the organisation’s work is aligned with the values of the team and how they navigate the tensions between the imperative of creating alternative land stewardship relations while working within the constraints of the existing economic and political systems. In practice I will be supporting the Shared Assets team in a research capacity as well as in its movement building work in organising events and helping out behind the scenes. 

With this placement I am hoping to gain further insight into the conversations and activist landscape around land justice in the UK and to reflect on what projects and practice will further an alternative land stewardship system that is built on metabolic healing and reparative and transformative justice. 

I am so excited about my time at Shared Assets and the conversations and experiences that will grow from it! 

"Racial capitalism depends on the continued dispossession of people(s) from their Land and means of subsistence"

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