July 6: Ali T Ahmed (NYU)

Monday, July 6th

Ali T Ahmed (NYU), Land Titling, Race, and Political Violence: Theory and Evidence from Colombia


Previous research has found that elites often use de facto political power to counter de jure (re)distribution of material, political, and social power. Yet less is known about the underlying conditions that influence elite decisions regarding the type of reforms to offset. We argue that elites are more likely to use de facto power to undermine racially targeted reforms in states that are stratified by both race and class. Structurally disadvantaged racial groups are more likely to be the beneficiaries of de jure reforms and thus the targets of counter-reform violence. We test our theory using original data collected by the Observatoriode Territorios Étnicos y Campesinos (OTEC) on the largest communal land reform program under taken in Latin America: the titling of collective lands belonging to black communities in Colombia. Using both difference-in-difference and regression discontinuity approaches, we show that the legal recognition of black collective property rights increased right-wing paramilitary attacks in municipalities where black communities mobilized to requisition formal land titles. As a further step, we show that the impact of titling on political violence can be explained by greater state coercive capacity and institutional capture by counter-reform elites. These findings together offer new insights into the puzzling racialization of the Colombian civil conflict since the 1990s.

Please find the link to the PDF below.