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Peer-Review Record

Peace, Land, and Bureaucracy in Colombia: An Analysis of the Implementation of the Victims and Land Restitution Law from a Multiscale Perspective of State Bureaucracies

Reviewer 1: Anonymous
Reviewer 2: Anonymous
Reviewer 3: Geoffrey Payne
Reviewer 4: Anonymous
Received: 28 January 2020 / Revised: 22 May 2020 / Accepted: 26 May 2020 / Published: 1 June 2020

Round 1

Reviewer 1 Report

I do not know if there was a rebuttal text, I did not see it, but my remarks on linking to broader literature (e.g. Scott, seeing as a state, Richter PhD 2014) do not seem to be taken on.

also the suggestion to translate [ between brackets ] Spanish titles of publications to English was ignored

the structure looks improved and builds up more convincingly; but the numbering system of (sub) sections is not clear to me

the term trope is not normal in land discourse, so I would not use it (374) until introduced properly in .. it makes sense

line 286 - land for long time in quotes, but it stops for a while and comes back at the end, is this deliberate ?

377 - reified ? not my standard english

457/460 $ here is COP I assume ? not very useful to put with so many digits, and better to use USD/Euro, you could say 2.6 triljion pesos (a bit under 1 billion usd) or the like

589 land without quotes again

767 trope again, keep to geogr. terms ??

784 when from ?? - where from / from whom ??

874 exiguous - not in my standard English

880 department for a level of admin. is possible, but province/district/region is more normal in English (dept. often unit of an organisation)

942 something that THE state does

956 where I WAS interviewing ???

1012 standarD stories, need D

1117 previous section ? maybe now subsection, see on numbering, just say e.g. section II or III or ..

1131 section two ? correct ??

1147 and beyond - liminal, not in my standard English

1211 - 1218 completely out of place, this could be part of intro. or concl. but not at end of contents sections - past tense is also a bit weird

1318 skip 'already' very strange to refer to your own work in such a way

Author Response

Track changes:

 

The introduction has been shortened: Lines 40-48. 92-103. 130-132. 134.

 

The legal ethnography has been shortened: Lines: 180 – 198. 193 – 199.

 

The Sharma and Gupta quote has been included: Lines 192 - 195.

 

The legal geography section has been shortened: Lines 296 – 316. 360 – 406.

 

Include restitution statistics for Colombia: Lines 940.

 

Explanation of the content of the scale analysis: Lines 377 – 385.

 

Chapter three has been shortened. Lines 413 – 521

 

Scale 1: The title has been changed as suggested by the reviewer.

 

Scale 1 has been shortened: Lines: 696 – 703, 762 – 772

 

Scale 2: The title has been changed as suggested by the reviewer.

 

Scale 3: The title has been changed as suggested by the reviewer.

 

Scales 3 and 4 have been combined. Several paragraphs from Scale 4 have been shortened to avoid the scale being so long.

 

Chapter 5 has been shortened 5. Lines 1279 - 1282, 1291 – 1298, 1301 – 1315, 1312 -1318, 1415 – 1426. 1437 – 1440. 1450 – 1490. The parts that seemed blunt have been cut out, and the parts that focused most on the emotional connection of the bureaucrats were left in.

 

The conclusion was been  changed in tone and scope, according to main findings.

 

The article has been proofread by a native English speaker.

 

Attached please find the point-by-point response.

Author Response File: Author Response.pdf

Reviewer 2 Report

Let me start by saying that I am ambiguous about this manuscript, but that I really hope that the author will put the necessary work into revising the manuscript which will be a valuable contribution to the special issue on 'Land governance in support of peace?'

On the one hand the manuscript gives an excellent analysis of the bureaucratic set-up and practices involved in the Colombian version of an inter- (or trans-)national template that has been developed as it has traveled between many of the world's 'post-conflict'/'transitional' contexts since the 1990s. Apart from mapping the legal-institutional set-up of the (land-)restitution program, the manuscript shows the effects of: the special expertise involved in the program; the system of indicators and reporting, which has been set up to monitor the program and its progress; and in particular the practices of the local administrators in the governmental units that manage the program on the ground vis-a-vis the people who make claims to become part of the land-restitution program. The main argument - that these low-level bureaucrats (often employed on an ad-hoc basis) provide a sort of emotional benefits or services in the absence of palpable material benefits (land) - is well taken and important, and surely relevant in many other places where governmental programs raise hopes for material benefits.

On the other hand however, the manuscript is difficult to read, is excessively long, and makes many, large and not always well-founded claims. In the following, I will give some general comments on language, length, and analytical approach and suggest some ways to revise the manuscript. 

  1. Language: Being a non-native English speaker, I will limit my comments to a suggestion that the author tries to limit the use of long and complex sentences; when combined with the grammatical challenges of English, they can become very hard to follow (where the subject disappears, for example). Although the language is rich in many ways, a robust round of copy-editing will be necessary. 

  2. Length: While I cannot see any official limits on the length of articles in the journal Land, it's never a good sign when the reader (me) gets the feeling of reading a never-ending article. I think the manuscript is the double of 'normal' 8-10.000 word articles, and a reduction of at least 1/3 of the current word-count would help making the article more concise, to-the-point and interesting. (And yes, I know there's a difference in style between Spanish and English academic writing, but still....). Below I will suggest some ways of reducing the word count. 

  3. Analytical approach 1: The choice of an 'anthropology of the state' -approach to this study is useful, but the introduction to the field (2.1) is not very precise (e.g. Abrams and Latour are sociologists not anthropologists); the depicted 'development' of the field is hard to recognize for somebody (like the reviewer) who has been part of it from the 1990s; and basically it is not necessary for the article. The three characteristics of the approach are fine (I would not call it a taxonomy, though), but otherwise a relatively short paragraph would be sufficient. Include maybe this quote from Sharma and Gupta: ‘An anthropological approach to the state differs from that of other disciplines by according centrality to the meanings of everyday practices of bureaucracies and their relation to representations of the state.’ (p.277 in Gupta, Akhil and Aradhana Sharma (2006), ‘Globalization and postcolonial states’, Current Anthropology 47(2), 277–307). For me, the important point to raise would be that 'the state' exists (partly) by being performed, and that one effect of the restitution law (law being one of the important 'languages of stateness', according to Hansen and Stepputat 2001) is that the state becomes more present as an experience in areas where it has had a limited presence, when the law and the associated programs are being performed through the everyday bureaucracy. 

  4. Analytical approach 2 - the scalar analysis: As in the above, I suggest to shorten the introduction to the 'legal geography' (2.2) because the broad characterization/discussion of 'space and law' is not really necessary for the analysis. In fact, the scholars of the anthropology of the state suggest to dis-aggregate the state and study it from different vantage points and here the author can just add the geographers' attention to scale.
    This said, I found it difficult to decipher, in the sections 4.1 to 4.3, which scales we were talking about. This should be clear after the introductory sections, and repeated at the beginning of section 4. The mention of two scales in line 341 did not make sense to me.

    After a second reading I understand (I think) that the scales we are observing are 1) a global or 'international' scale (or transnational as many INGOs are involved in the production of this expertise) - maybe call this section 'the global expertise of transitional justice'; 2) a national scale (the development of the specific program and system of  indicators for monitoring the progress) - call it 'national programming and the promise of land', for example; and 3) (and 4?) a 'local' (provincial and/or municipal) scale where the program articulates interactions between citizens and state representatives which 'makes' both citizens and bureaucrats. These interactions take place in and around the offices that give the program a body across the country, offices that also permeate the surrounding streets - as public offices tend to do - with the associated services etc. A title signaling the scale could be 'Restitution and the street level bureaucrats' (grassroots bureaucracy is a bit more ambiguous for me as it could refer to the bureaucratic impulses in some grassroot movements). 
    Staying with these sections for a moment, I would suggest that they are tidied up to follow the above description of the scales (while in the current manuscripts some themes appear in various sections, such as the indicators and the 'measurement tool'). Maybe I would also suggest that section 4.4 is combined with 4.3 to describe the practices and interactions that characterize the offices where claimants have access. I wouldn't single out a specific 'ethnographic section' (4.4), partly because there is also traces of an ethnographic gaze when the author analyzes the other scales, and partly because the current 4.4 gives an account of the interaction at the third scale, and would give more life to 4.3.
    The tidying up of section 4 would also reduce the length of the manuscript.

  5. Affective states: Even though section 5 has interesting suggestions and ideas, I find that the section has too many un-substantiated claims and assertions that would require a whole article in itself to be developed sufficiently (as an example of what I see as an assertion is line 960: 'Affection in the new social service ....makes the individual feel capable, autonomous, and powerful ...' I miss the evidence, here, and in the observations presented earlier). I understand that the empirical observations of the interactions in/around the offices in Quibdo-Chocó makes ideas about affection relevant. But I do have an issue with the presentation of 'the affective turn' as something that characterizes the current post-liberal state, or at least I would need some references here (eg. line 998 '... it has been documented in the literature as a characteristic of the post-neoliberal state'). As I have understood the literature on 'affective states', we are rather seeing a turn to affect in our analytical gaze, away from discourse, meaning, rationalities etc. towards the embodied and affective. Thus Ann Stoler (2004), for example, writes about the obsession with affect in Dutch Indonesia; and many others have underlined the important emotional and subjective (and subjectifying) dimensions of modern statehood.
    Other statements about the novelty of the 'affective' could also be challenged, such as the talk about the obsession with 'how to live' (lines 1041-1052), which doesn't sound much different from Nugent's (1997) analysis of the 1920's Peru which saw a flurry of instructive and popular publications about how subaltern classes could become proper citizens with decent and productive lives, etc.
     
    What I am saying is not that the observations are not relevant or that there is not something happening in the 'post-neoliberal' state with new-speak, a focus on what we can do to improve ourselves as individuals etc. But there has to be a closer connection to the presented empirical observations, and a more precise and profound discussion of different contributions to the debate.   
    In fact, many of the observations presented in the analysis regarding the 'affective' relations around the restitution program (in 4.3 and 4.4) sound very familiar in an old fashioned 'street-level bureaucracy' (Lipsky) or a 'practical norms' -perspective (Olivier de Sardan).
    The access to psychologizing programs however, might well be a novelty introduced widely with transitional justice programs from the 1990s onwards (see Popovac 2001 on 'Therapeutic Governance'). 
    So, in conclusion, I suggest that the author in section five shortens the text, tones down the claims, and focus more on the emotional engagement of the bureaucrats/contractors as documented in the analysis.

  6. Land: Considering the centrality of the argument that emotional engagement is delivered instead of land (and jobs - as IDPs I interviewed in Baranquilla 20 years ago stated, they didn't need psychologists but jobs), I would expect a bit of data about how many of the (admitted) claims have resulted in restitution of land, and how much land we are talking about. These data should be available and added (lines 768-72). And by the way, what does it mean that 'the unit won the case'?
    It's not credible that there is no land at all, and one would assume that a little (actual) land restitution is necessary for the reproduction of the whole, dream-based machinery.
    Finally, it may be worth mentioning that the peace accords also contains some provisions about land reform, however hypothetical it may be. 

Various:

  • the state is sometimes described in the manuscript as having 'a liminal presence.' I'm not sure I understand the limited presence as 'liminal' at least in anthropological and some other disciplines where 'liminal' refers to the existence at a threshold, or to something 'betwixt and between'. So either it should be explained a bit further, or just substituted by 'limited'.
  • line 970: 'post-neoliberal socialism'?? 
  • Just for the information: Some authors distinguish between the emotional and the affective (see Laszczkowski and Reeves 2015 on affective states) 
  • line 1089: 'facing the illegibility of the state ...'. Are we talking about the state that is illegible for the 'users/victims' or are the victims are illegible to the state?
  • line 1091: the text mentions 'a third effect', but it's not clear what the first two were
  • A relevant reference could be Nuijten (2003) that talks about the state as a 'hope-generating machine'. 

 

Author Response

Track changes:

 

The introduction has been shortened: Lines 40-48. 92-103. 130-132. 134.

 

The legal ethnography has been shortened: Lines: 180 – 198. 193 – 199.

 

The Sharma and Gupta quote has been included: Lines 192 - 195.

 

The legal geography section has been shortened: Lines 296 – 316. 360 – 406.

 

Include restitution statistics for Colombia: Lines 940.

 

Explanation of the content of the scale analysis: Lines 377 – 385.

 

Chapter three has been shortened. Lines 413 – 521

 

Scale 1: The title has been changed as suggested by the reviewer.

 

Scale 1 has been shortened: Lines: 696 – 703, 762 – 772

 

Scale 2: The title has been changed as suggested by the reviewer.

 

Scale 3: The title has been changed as suggested by the reviewer.

 

Scales 3 and 4 have been combined. Several paragraphs from Scale 4 have been shortened to avoid the scale being so long.

 

Chapter 5 has been shortened 5. Lines 1279 - 1282, 1291 – 1298, 1301 – 1315, 1312 -1318, 1415 – 1426. 1437 – 1440. 1450 – 1490. The parts that seemed blunt have been cut out, and the parts that focused most on the emotional connection of the bureaucrats were left in.

 

The conclusion was been  changed in tone and scope, according to main findings.

 

The article has been proofread by a native English speaker.

 

Attached please find the point-by-point response.

Author Response File: Author Response.pdf

Reviewer 3 Report

The title does not state which country or countries the issues relates to - a fundamental gap. Also, the English needs improvement.

Author Response

Track changes:

 

The introduction has been shortened: Lines 40-48. 92-103. 130-132. 134.

 

The legal ethnography has been shortened: Lines: 180 – 198. 193 – 199.

 

The Sharma and Gupta quote has been included: Lines 192 - 195.

 

The legal geography section has been shortened: Lines 296 – 316. 360 – 406.

 

Include restitution statistics for Colombia: Lines 940.

 

Explanation of the content of the scale analysis: Lines 377 – 385.

 

Chapter three has been shortened. Lines 413 – 521

 

Scale 1: The title has been changed as suggested by the reviewer.

 

Scale 1 has been shortened: Lines: 696 – 703, 762 – 772

 

Scale 2: The title has been changed as suggested by the reviewer.

 

Scale 3: The title has been changed as suggested by the reviewer.

 

Scales 3 and 4 have been combined. Several paragraphs from Scale 4 have been shortened to avoid the scale being so long.

 

Chapter 5 has been shortened 5. Lines 1279 - 1282, 1291 – 1298, 1301 – 1315, 1312 -1318, 1415 – 1426. 1437 – 1440. 1450 – 1490. The parts that seemed blunt have been cut out, and the parts that focused most on the emotional connection of the bureaucrats were left in.

 

The conclusion was been  changed in tone and scope, according to main findings.

 

The article has been proofread by a native English speaker.

 

Attached please find the point-by-point response.

Author Response File: Author Response.pdf

Reviewer 4 Report

The introduction on the first page leaves me a little confused, you make quite strong statements but it is not very clear what it is you want to tell the reader. What exactly is surprising or rather not? You make a lot of statements that assume the reader already has all the context knowledge and even knows your train of thought. Formulations like "shifted the category from foolhardy to necessary" are not quite clearly targeted (or simply go beyond my processing capacities, but I might not be the only one).

You use very interesting, metaphoric language, but in some ways this conceals your intentions and objectives. One straightforward paragraph that details the problem/puzzle from which you depart, your hypothesis/es and methods would be really helpful. For now the reader has to work hard to figure this out. This is especially relevant as you address a diverse public through land and not specialized ethnographers and anthropologists.

In line 162/63 ff you repeat word for word lines 156/57 ff.

In line 176 you speak of 'we lawyers' - not clear who 'we' is meant to be.

As soon as you dig into the case your narrative becomes very gripping and much clearer, unfortunately by then I was not yet (or not anymore) sure what you intend to do. 

You convincingly trace how 'the state' in its manifestations seeks to evade distributive debates. What would be interesting is (even a short) reference to the 'why'. This might not be central to your argument but it is of great interest. There are other cases, prominently the South African, where restitution and redistribution of land were central in transitional justice. The ways in which this played out in practice (see: Cliffe, Lionel. “Land Reform in South Africa.” Review of African Political Economy, vol. 27, no. 84, 2000, pp. 273–286) and the (political and economic) reasons for the lack of redistribution (and even restitution) (- see: Betge, David (2017): Determinants, Consequences and Perspectives of Land Reform Politics in Newly Industrializing Countries A Comparison of the Indian and the South African Case,  Series: Berliner Studien zur Politik in Afrika, https://doi.org/10.3726/b11779) have been extensively researched and might bear similarities with the Colombian case.

Specifically, the question as to why redistribution was insufficient in SA is claimed to be symptomatic of neo-liberal agendas and paradigmatic for so-called emerging economies, rather than idiosyncratic for the South African case (Betge, 2017). Alluding to this case might add to your extremely insightful study especially given the interdisciplinary audience you address via land. 

 

Author Response

Track changes:

 

The introduction has been shortened: Lines 40-48. 92-103. 130-132. 134.

 

The legal ethnography has been shortened: Lines: 180 – 198. 193 – 199.

 

The Sharma and Gupta quote has been included: Lines 192 - 195.

 

The legal geography section has been shortened: Lines 296 – 316. 360 – 406.

 

Include restitution statistics for Colombia: Lines 940.

 

Explanation of the content of the scale analysis: Lines 377 – 385.

 

Chapter three has been shortened. Lines 413 – 521

 

Scale 1: The title has been changed as suggested by the reviewer.

 

Scale 1 has been shortened: Lines: 696 – 703, 762 – 772

 

Scale 2: The title has been changed as suggested by the reviewer.

 

Scale 3: The title has been changed as suggested by the reviewer.

 

Scales 3 and 4 have been combined. Several paragraphs from Scale 4 have been shortened to avoid the scale being so long.

 

Chapter 5 has been shortened 5. Lines 1279 - 1282, 1291 – 1298, 1301 – 1315, 1312 -1318, 1415 – 1426. 1437 – 1440. 1450 – 1490. The parts that seemed blunt have been cut out, and the parts that focused most on the emotional connection of the bureaucrats were left in.

 

The conclusion was been  changed in tone and scope, according to main findings.

 

The article has been proofread by a native English speaker.

 

Attached please find the point-by-point response.

 

Author Response File: Author Response.pdf

Round 2

Reviewer 3 Report

My initial comment is that it is not clear from the title, and even not until the last line of the abstract that the paper is focusing on the land issues in Colombia. I suggest that this be modified as a priority.

Second, the paper is very long at 25 pages and I am not sure if this is within your normal limits.

Thirdly, I fully appreciate that English is not the first language of the author. However, the paper would clearly benefit from some editorial input.

Author Response

Dear reviewer.

 

Thanks a lot for the comments. All the suggestion on concept #3 has been developed on the revised version (sent on April 7th). Here I respond point by point the reviewer´s suggetions:

  • My initial comment is that it is not clear from the title, and even not until the last line of the abstract that the paper is focusing on the land issues in Colombia. I suggest that this be modified as a priority.

Thanks for the suggestion. As I said before, I left the title change decision to the editors. I think that It could be adjust to (changes in red color):  “Peace, land, and bureaucracy in Colombia: An analysis of the implementation of the Victims and Land Restitution Law from a multi-scale perspective of state bureaucracies”

Also, the abstract can include Colombia as follows:

This article presents an analysis of the complexities implied by the implementation of the land restitution policy in the Colombia case, as a good example of the way in which the state works in its day-to-day practice. The document shows the role played by the bureaucracy of “land” in the management of the so-called Colombian post-conflict. It is constructive in showing the multiscale nature of the state, whose operation cannot be understood outside the different levels and scales that compose it; and this is very well exemplified in the typology of the bureaucracies to which it resorts in order to explain the different meanings of notions such as that of “conflict,” “land” or “victim” for the public officials according to the position they fill in the institutional architecture of the restitution. In the analysis of the research findings, the author shows how emotional rather than material benefits condense the state's role in the Colombian post-conflict period.

 

  1. Second, the paper is very long at 25 pages and I am not sure if this is within your normal limits.

Yes, is true. The second version is 30% less longer than de first one.

  1. Thirdly, I fully appreciate that English is not the first language of the author. However, the paper would clearly benefit from some editorial input.

As I said in the last letter, I worked with my collegue and dear friend Tiziana Laudato in a in- deep proofreading by a native English speaker.We work in the simplicity of the language and ideas, but also in moderate the tone and scope of some claims in the article. You can contact Tiziana Laudato at [email protected]

 

Thanks a lot for the opportunity. I really learn into this process.

 

Best regards,

 

Lina Buchely – Ibarra

Universidad Icesi

Cali- Colombia

This manuscript is a resubmission of an earlier submission. The following is a list of the peer review reports and author responses from that submission.


Round 1

Reviewer 1 Report

The author provides a clearly argued and ultimately convincing analysis of the complexities inherent in Colombia's land restitution policy. Drawing on original ethnographic research, as well as available secondary sources, the author interrogates the political motives, legal narratives, institutional scales, and bureaucratic practices underlying the setting and processes of reparation. The approach is infused with both passion and clarity, adding to the pace and directness of the text. I enjoyed reading this study.

Reviewer 2 Report

The paper seeks to unveil the complexities involved in the everyday practices of the Colombian state in times of building its peace institutional architecture. It does so focusing the analysis on the bureaucratic practices of the state shaping the relationships between citizens and public officials working in the implementation of the land restitution policy, developed under the Law 1448 of 2011, known as Law of Victims. Such cultural approach, which highlights the power of the legal in constructing realities, constitutes an important contribution for understanding current state building processes implemented under alternative transitional justice frameworks. Colombia is nowadays a pivotal case in the world regarding these matters, and because of that, its developments must be studied in order to obtain deeper comprehensive insights.

However, in a broad perspective, the organization of the paper makes it difficult to identify the main questions and arguments of the author, and to follow them throughout the text. Disperse ideas are presented within a fragile articulation among them as well as within a confusing presentation of the existing peace institutional architecture regarding the land restitution policy and its indicators.

The chosen structure for presenting the analysis of the research findings is based on the theoretical idea of the “multiscale nature of the state”. Regarding this notion, precisions on concepts (state/street/grassroots bureaucracies…) and the analytical framework informing the author´s positioning are not clear. Without this job of synthesizing the related literature, the consistency and strength of the findings are affected. The focus of the conceptual task is around the category of “indicators” but its linkages with the other concepts and the analytical framework are diffused.

The methodological approach is reduced to research techniques for data collection but considerations regarding the forms of analysis are omitted. Findings show narratives mostly from public officials and few ones from the victims without clear criteria for its selection

Finally, I found it difficult to understand some strong statements made by the author about the notion of the Colombian armed conflict expressed through the current peace institutional architecture of the state. They are not supported enough neither on the contextual data nor in the few narratives highlighted. Extensive scholarly production on the topic is dismissed in favour of positioning the author´s controversial judgment about it within the framework of the current transitional justice.

Reviewer 3 Report

The paper reads almost like proza, it is a specific style, either by discipline a/o culture the author belongs to I suspect. Sentences are often (too?) long. It took me above average time per page to read it.

Many references are in Spanish, personally I prefer if between e.g. [..]  an English translation of the titles is given so at least everyone gets an idea what it is about.

Link to broader (non Spanish) literature could be stronger, e.g. Scott - Seeing as a State, and more into the land topic Christine Richter's PhD (UTwente 2014) would make sense. Scott e.g. around line 65/67; street burocracy in Richter, line 86, line 204

Also on the influence of indicators on managemnet in line 58 etc. there must be good references availalble

The story is very interesting to read, but for an academic paper some of the terms should be 'toned down', made more neutral and show less of the 'feelings' behind them; e.g. anecdote, scenario in lines 27/28; betray in line 35; suffocating present 627

There are some typo's, esp. were/was (and other singular -s) cases.

line 139 - Unit or Units ?? (f singular than was not were)

475 even if it WAS, there

Few words are not in my daily English (as a very experienced non-native speaker);

esp. 'trope', even el "land" trope (line 97) institutional architecture, where I would use institutional structure (or set-up). crucibles, 611

Use of me, I, us etc about this work could be harmonized.

Till very far in the paper text like 'this work will, has, etc.', I will argue in line 143

line 92, chapter ?? article, paragraph, section ??

line 96, they fill or they fulfil ?

explain why field work is so old (2015), line 116

line 147, they organize their, who is they/their refering to ?

227 Victims Law with capitals ??

295 a promise not kept, no d

309, what does 'con' mean here ?

401 Fordist, perhaps also use assembly line or the like

529 shown ue or ME, or even shown to me, or is showing

563 that THE state

572 to get hold of state resources (we all seem to try as homo economicus to do so ..)

578 because IT is concrete

579 this mask workS

601 contemporariness ?? is that a word; 600-603 I had trouble understanding in general, perhaps reformulate

683 ref. 9 is too short

 

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