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Colloquium #4 – “Sitting on Old Mats to Plait New”: The gendered struggle over land and livelihood in Liberia
January 27 @ 11:15 am - 12:30 pm
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In 1926, the Liberian government granted Firestone Tire & Rubber Company a 99-year lease for up to one million acres of land to grow rubber. It marked the first major land concession in Liberia, paving the way for a current wave of concessions that in 2018 claimed approximately 50 percent of land in Liberia. This paper throws light on past and present struggles over large-scale agriculture concessions in Liberia and their impact on the livelihoods and rights of Liberia’s indigenous people. In recent years, rural women have become a powerful force in the passage of legislation that grants legal recognition to customary land and equal rights of women to “own” land for the first time since the founding of Liberia as an independent, sovereign nation in 1847.
Gregg Mitman is the Vilas Research and William Coleman Professor of History, Medical History, and Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His latest book, Empire of Rubber: Firestone’s Scramble for Land and Power in Liberia, will be published by The New Press in the fall of 2021.