Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Marc Edelman

Committee Members

Julie Skurski

John Collins

María Clemencia Ramírez

Subject Categories

Human Geography | Latin American History | Social and Cultural Anthropology


State formation, land, property, neoliberalism, region making, Llanos, Colombia


This work examines different conflicts over the definition, delimitation, and use of state lands in Colombia. It focuses on the conflicts over three places, which have been produced as state properties and “baldíos” (public, untitled lands) from the 1940s to the 2010s in Los Llanos region. This dissertation departs from two premises. First, the making and unmaking of state lands are unique windows to examine how the limits between state and non-state properties, actors, and spaces are defined and disputed. Second, state lands, and especially baldíos, have been a key form of state territorialization and appropriation of marginalized regions. Thus, by focusing on these three places, this work studies the relationship between the configuration of Los Llanos as a frontier region and the emergence of three state formations. This work is organized in three parts, each one focused on one state formation: the colonizing state, the developmental state, and the neoliberal state. These are not separated steps but intertwined political formations. As a marginal and frontier region in permanent transformation, the Llanos is a key space to understand the limits of these state formations. By the limits of the state, this work also refers to how state projects, institutions, and officials shape their scope and limitations according to the way they conceive the region and its inhabitants. The production of natural, spatial and population differences and hierarchies shape the forms that the state takes in each region.

In sum, the whole work seeks to sketch out the neoliberalization of the state and landed property, both highly disputed processes in Colombia. At the same time, this dissertation examines how Los Llanos has been configured, firstly, as a presumed natural region for cattle ranching, and, since the 2000s, for large-scale agribusiness. In this transformation, different processes of dispossession, displacement, and emptiness played a key role. Thus, it shows how this region is a political, economic, and environmental construction that expands over different places and populations. This construction is the result not only of different state projects, but also of dissimilar and competing political powers and forms of authority. In particular, the last part of this work examines the emergence of a new subregion in Los Llanos: the Altillanura, a recent state territorialization, fruit of the expansion of large-scale agribusiness projects. Therefore, this works concludes that the Altillanura has been a laboratory for the neoliberalization of state lands in Colombia.

This work is embargoed and will be available for download on Saturday, September 30, 2023

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