Embodied Histories: Exploring Law's Temporality in Relation to Land in Botswana

Anne Griffiths

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper addresses the temporalities of law in the context of everyday lives and people's access to and control over land in Botswana. Based on the life histories of two family groups, the Makokwes and the Radipatis, over several generations, it demonstrates how individuals’ access to resources alters and reconfigures in tune with household and family cycles across space and time, leading to varying life trajectories. These trajectories demonstrate how these related families come to experience different life worlds that have an impact on their access to and control over land. Such life histories are important because they foreground the ways in which what is happening in the present links back to the past and points forward to the future, in ways that undermine any notion of a unilinear development or concept of progress. They also highlight how life courses in the present have emerged from complex, past histories that have a bearing on their potential for future development. This produces very different experiences of temporality for individuals and families linked into the networks of which they form part. Such an approach reveals the temporalities of geometries of power and social relations, in which law plays an important role. These processes that are constantly in the making highlight the politically charged dynamics of time, space and place that provide both the limits and potential for action through multi-layered domains giving rise to differing understandings about the regulation of land in Botswana today.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-59
JournalJournal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • customary land tenure
  • land reform
  • genealogies and family life histories
  • temporality
  • physical
  • social and legal space
  • development
  • social differentiation
  • inequality


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