News & Events

Cosmopolis Lunch Seminar with Line Algoed (VUB): The Uses of Crises: Communal land tenure after disaster

3 October 2019 , Geography Dept. - Room F 4.66- (VUB - Pleinlaan 2, BE-1050 Brussels, Building F) from 12.00h to 13.30h


Founded in 2004 by the residents of seven informally established neighbourhoods located along the Martín Peña channel, a highly polluted and flood prone channel in San Juan, Puerto Rico, the Fideicomiso de la Tierra del Caño Martín Peña (the Caño Martín Peña Community Land Trust or Caño CLT) is the first community land trust in Latin America and the Caribbean, and one of the only two CLTs in informal settlements worldwide. It has become an international reference for other informal and low-income communities across the world, as an instrument to regularise land tenure and protect communities against displacements driven by gentrification, economic decline, neoliberal austerity, and climate change-induced natural risks.

My research explores the Caño CLT from a political ecological perspective, as I aim to identify how the interests, policies and discourse of political and economic elites function to perpetuate the vulnerability of residents in unplanned settlements, particularly in the aftermath of natural disasters, and how the Caño CLT is an effective instrument to counter this process. From a perspective of decolonial feminism, my research also looks into the ways these struggles to resist displacements and organise grassroots neighbourhood development are challenging modern, colonial, capitalist thinking about property, race and gender (Lugones, 2010).

In my presentation at Cosmopolis I will focus on the importance of residents-led planning in the Caño CLT and what participatory action-planning-reflection processes are in place for residents to take ownership of planning instruments. I will describe the significance of the project in the context of Puerto Rico, an overseas territory (or colony) of the United States, that has been struck by recent climate, political and financial crises and how the struggles from Caño residents are challenging colonial and capitalist notions of risk, crisis and vulnerability.

Bio speaker:

Line is a PhD researcher at Cosmopolis, Center for Urban Research at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and a Research Fellow at the International Institute of Social Studies in The Hague. Her research explores how communal land ownership in the Caribbean creates an alternative development model that allows communities to control land use, protect the environment and counter displacements, while strengthening themselves to face climate change and having greater control over their recovery from climate change-induced disasters. She focuses on communal land tenure systems in Barbuda and the Caño Martín Peña Community Land Trust in San Juan, Puerto Rico; areas that have been severely affected by hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017 and are going through radical neoliberal reforms imposed by their governments. She also studies processes of gentrification in informal settlements and how Community Land Trusts can help tackle displacements through local economic development and community participation in neighbourhood improvement. She was the Lead Researcher in a collaborative research project funded by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy to advance new forms of community-owned land and explore the feasibility of CLT instruments developed by the Caño Martín Peña communities in favelas in Rio de Janeiro. In her action-oriented and engaged research, she helps the Caño Martín Peña residents promote the South-South transfer of instruments developed through grassroots organisations with recent engagements in Brazil, Mexico and a forthcoming exchange in Myanmar. She works with the international Center for CLT Innovation bringing together current research on Community Land Trusts in a forthcoming collection of essays on new forms of CLTs with a focus on the Global South. Line holds an MA in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Leiden (NL) and an MSc in Urban Sociology from the London School of Economics.