Making space legible across three normative frames: The (non-)registration of inherited land in Ghana

Z. Abubakari* (Corresponding Author), C. Richter, J.A. Zevenbergen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
73 Downloads (Pure)


Land registration as a state legibility making endeavor has received little success in the global south where large incidence of non-registration has been reported. However, in seeking explanations for the lack of official land rights registration, researchers tend to focus on shortcomings in the bureaucratic processes based on expectations that are implicitly informed by a Weberian ideal bureaucracy. Little connection is made to other relevant factors that play different roles in the land registration processes such as the external socio-cultural norms which produces and regulate land relations. It is therefore important to study the actual practices of land rights registration and the underlying norms that govern such practices. In this study, we qualitatively analyze the actual practices of registration at the intersection of three normative frames, namely, social norms, practical norms and official norms. We used these normative frames as a theoretical prism to analyze how the choices made by successors of inherited property across rural and urban areas in Ghana are informed, given the plural normative influences. We found that beyond organisational inefficiencies, the eventual decision of a successor of property to report transfers for registration depends on the nature of property claims (competing or complimentary), the manner of property sharing and holding, and the existence of ‘halfway-documents’ that provide some sort of legitimacy. Therefore, there is not one set of obstacles to registration, which would call for one set of solutions, instead, we need to appreciate the diverse nature of the factors that play roles in land registration in order to provide fit-for-purpose solutions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)217-226
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020


  • Land registration
  • Inheritance
  • Legibility making
  • Social norms
  • Official norms
  • Practical norms
  • Cadastre
  • 22/2 OA procedure
  • UT-Hybrid-D


Dive into the research topics of 'Making space legible across three normative frames: The (non-)registration of inherited land in Ghana'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this