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 Prof. Ben Cousins

Position: DST/NRF Chair in Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies
Department:  
Faculty: Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences
Qualifications: DPhil (UZ), BA (UNISA)
Tel: 021-959-3739
Fax: 021 959 9736
Email: bcousins@plaas.org.za
Research:
 
 
 
 

Biography

 Prof Cousins' research is strategic and use-oriented, for policy-makers and civil society groups concerned with reducing poverty and inequality through redistributing assets, securing rights and democratising decision-making in rural areas. In 2013 he received an inaugural Elinor Ostrom Award, in the senior scholars category, for his contribution to scholarship on the commons. His research is interdisciplinary, drawing on theories, concepts and insights from anthropology, sociology, development studies, political studies, history, economics, law and environmental studies. The main body of scholarship that informs his work and to which he contributes is the political economy of agrarian change, but he also draws heavily on the anthropology of law and land tenure. His work focuses on three key issues: the politics and economics of land and agrarian reform (in particular on the role of small-scale agricultural producers within such reforms); legal recognition or formalisation of customary land rights; and the changing nature of rural social organisation and systems. The scope of his research extends beyond South Africa to Africa more broadly, with a particular focus on southern Africa.

Prof Cousins was in exile for 19 years, working in agricultural training and extension in Swaziland (1976-1983) and Zimbabwe (1983-1986), and carried out research on communal grazing, livestock production and rural class formation in Zimbabwe (1986-1991). Since his return to South Africa in the early 1990s Prof Cousins has worked closely with government departments, NGOs and engaged scholars to formulate new land policies, but has also provided critiques of government policies and advocated alternative policies. He publishes regularly in the popular media and is often called upon to comment on land and rural development policies in the local and international press, radio and television media.

From 1991 to 1995, Prof Cousins lectured in Anthropology at the University of the Western Cape and held a chair in Development Management at the University of the Western Cape from 1998 to 2009. He founded and directed PLAAS from its inception in 1995 until September 2009 and was a Distinguished Visiting Professor in International Development Studies at St Mary’s University in Canada in 2008.

Prof Cousins is currently rated by South Africa’s National Research Foundation as a researcher who enjoys considerable international recognition for the high quality and impact of his recent research outputs. He has published widely in both academic and non-academic formats, and has edited or co-edited nine books.

Publications

  1. Cousins, B., Walker, C. (Eds.), 2015. Land Divided, Land Restored : Land Reform in South Africa for the 21st Century. Jacana, Johannesburg, South Africa.
  2. Cousins, B., 2015. “Through a glass darkly”: Towards agrarian reform in South Africa’, in: Cousins, B., Walker, C. (Eds.), Land Divided, Land Restored : Land Reform in South Africa for the 21st Century. Jacana, Johannesburg, South Africa.
  3. Cousins, B., 2014. Land and Land Reform in South Africa, in: Bhorat, H., Hirsch, A., Kanbur, R., Ncube, M. (Eds.), The Oxford Companion to the Economics of South Africa. Oxford University Press, Cape Town.
  4. Cousins, B., Hall, R., Dubb, A., 2014. The Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Act of 2014 - What are the real implications of reopening land claims?(Policy Brief No. 34). Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town.
  5. Cousins, B., 2014. What’s wrong with government’s Agricultural Landholding Policy, and what’s the alternative? (PLAAS Position Paper for National Land Tenure Summit, 2014). Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies, Cape Town.
  6. Weinberg, T., Cousins, B., 2014. Communal Property Associations (CLS Position Paper for the Land Tenure Summit, 2014). Centre for Law and Society, Cape Town.
  7. Aliber, M., & Cousins, B. (2013). Livelihoods after Land Reform in South Africa. Journal of Agrarian Change13(1), 140–165.
  8. Cousins, B., 2013. Land reform and agriculture uncoupled: the political economy of rural reform in post-apartheid South Africa, in: In the Shadow of Policy Everyday Practices in South Africa’s Land and Agrarian Reform. Wits University Press, Johannesburg.
  9. Cousins, B., 2013. ‘Women’s land rights and social change in rural South Africa: the case of Msinga, Kwazulu-Natal’, Acta Juridica 13 (special issue on ‘Marriage, Land and Custom’): 73- 99.
  10. Cousins, B., 2013. ‘Land redistribution, populism and elite capture: New land reform policy proposals under the microscope’, Focus 70, special issue on land,  October 2013 (Johanesburg: Helen Suzman Foundation).
  11. Cousins, B. (2013). Smallholder Irrigation Schemes, Agrarian Reform and “Accumulation from Above and from Below” in South Africa. Journal of Agrarian Change13(1), 116–139.
  12. Cousins, B. and Hall, R. (2013) ‘Rights without illusions: the potential and limits of rights-based approaches to securing land tenure in rural South Africa’ in Malcolm Langford, Ben Cousins, Jackie Dugard and Tshepo Madlingozi (eds.). Symbols or Substance? The role and impact of socio-economic rights strategies in South Africa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  13. Cousins, B., Hebinck, P., 2013. In the Shadow of Policy: Everyday Practices in South Africa’s Land and Agrarian Reform. Wits University Press, Johannesburg.
  14. Hall, R. and Cousins, B. 2013. ‘Livestock and the rangeland commons in South Africa’s land and agrarian reform’, African Journal of Range & Forage Science 2013: 1–5.
  15. Langford, M., Cousins, B., Dugard, J. and Madlingozi, T. (eds.) (2013) Symbols or Substance? The role and impact of socio-economic rights strategies in South Africa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  16. Spierenburg, M., Cousins, B., Bos, A. and Ntsholo, L. (2012) ‘Connecting communities and business: Public-private partnerships as the panacea for land reform in Limpopo Province, South Africa’, in: Mirjam de Bruijn and Rijk van Dijk (eds), The Social Life of Connectivity in Africa. New York: Palgrave Macmillan: 161-182.
  17. Cousins B (2012) ‘Home Land: The ambiguities of rural life in apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa’, in Heidi Grunebaum and Emile Maurice (eds), Uncontained: Opening the Community Arts Project archive. Cape Town: Centre for Humanities Research, University of the Western Cape: 176-185.
  18. Cliffe, L. et al., 2011. An overview of Fast Track Land Reform in Zimbabwe: editorial introductionJournal of Peasant Studies, 38(5), pp.907-938.
  19. Cousins, B. & Hall, R., 2011. 'Rights without illusions: The potential and limits of rights-based approaches to securing land tenure in South Africa,Working Paper 18. Cape Town: Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies.
  20. Cousins, B., 2011. What is a “smallholder”?: Class analytical perspectives on small-scale farming and agrarian reform in South Africa. In P. Hebinck & Charlie Shackleton, eds. Reforming land and resource use in South Africa: Impact on livelihoods. ISS Series in Rural Livelihoods. Oxford: Routledge, pp. 86-111.
  21. Cousins, B., (with R. Alcock, N. Dladla, D. Hornby, M. Masondo, G. Mbatha, M. Mweli and C. Alcock), 2011, 'Imithetho yomhlaba yaseMsinga: The living law of land in Msinga District, KwaZulu-Natal,' Research Report 43. Cape Town: Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (with MRDP and LEAP).
  22. Cousins, B., 2010. The politics of communal tenure reform: A South African case study. In W. Anseeuw & C. Alden, eds. The struggle over land in Africa: Conflicts, politics and change. Pretoria: HSRC Press, pp. 55-70.
  23. Cousins, B., 2010. What is a smallholder? Class-analytic perspectives on small-scale farming and agrarian reform in South Africa, Cape Town: Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies.
  24. Cousins, B. & Scoones, I., 2010. Contested paradigms of “viability” in redistributive land reform: perspectives from southern AfricaThe Journal of Peasant Studies, 37(1), pp.31-66.
  25. Cousins, B., 2009. Capitalism obscured: the limits of law and rights-based approaches to poverty reduction and developmentThe Journal of Peasant Studies, 36(4), pp.893-908.
  26. Cousins, B., 2009. Land Reform in South AfricaJournal of Agrarian Change, 9(3), pp.421-431.
  27. Cousins, B., 2009. Potential and pitfalls of “communal” land tenure reform: Experience in Africa and implications for South Africa. In World Bank Conference on Land Governance in Support of the MDGs: Responding to New Challenges. Washington DC, pp. 9-10.
  28. Sjaastad, E. & Cousins, B., 2009. Formalisation of land rights in the South: An overviewLand use policy, 26(1), pp.1-9.
  29. Claassens, A. & Cousins, B eds., 2008. Land, Power and Custom, Cape Town: UCT Press.
  30. Cousins, B., 2008. Contextualising the controversies: dilemmas of communal tenure reform in post-apartheid South Africa. In Aninka Claassens & Ben Cousins, eds. Land, power and custom. Cape Town: Juta and Company Ltd, pp. 3-31.
  31. Cousins, B., 2008. Characterising “Communal” Tenure: Nested Systems and Flexible Boundaries. In Land, Power and Custom. Cape Town: Juta and Company Ltd, pp. 109-137.
  32. Cousins, B., 2007. More than socially embedded: the distinctive character of “communal tenure” regimes in South Africa and its implications for land policyJournal of Agrarian Change, 7(3), pp.281-315.
  33. Cousins, B. et al., 2007. A synthesis of sociological and biological perspectives on sustainable land use in NamaqualandJournal of Arid Environments, 70(4), pp.834-846.
  34. Cousins, B., 2006. Debating the politics of land occupationsJournal of Agrarian Change, 6(4), pp.584-597.
  35. Cousins, B. & Claassens, A., 2006. More than simply “socially embedded”: recognizing the distinctiveness of African land rights. In Keynote address at the international symposium on “At the Frontier of Land Issues: Social embeddedness of rights and public policy.”“At the Frontier of Land Issues: Social embeddedness of rights and public policy.”Montpellier, pp. 17-19.
  36. Kingwill, R. et al., 2006. Mysteries and myths: de Soto, property and poverty in South AfricaGatekeeper, 124.
  37. Cousins, B., 2005. Agrarian reform and the “two economies”: transforming South Africa’s countryside. In L. Ntsebeza & Ruth Hall, eds. The land question in South Africa: The challenge of transformation and redistribution. Pretoria: HSRC Press, pp. 220-245.
  38. Cousins, B., 2005. Tenure reform in South Africa: titling versus social embeddednessForum for Development Studies, 32(2), pp.415-442.
  39. Cousins, B., 2005. Embeddedness versus Titling: African Land Tenure Systems and the Potential Impacts of the Communal Land Rights Act 11 of 2004Stellenbosch Law Review, 16, pp.488-513.
  40. Cousins, B. et al., 2005. Will formalising property rights reduce poverty in South Africa’s “second economy,” Cape Town: Programme for Land and Agrarian Studies.
  41. Cousins, B. & Claassens, A., 2005. Communal Tenure “From Above” and “From Below”: Land Rights, Authority and Livelihoods in Rural South Africa. In S. Evers, M. Spierenburg, & H. Wels, eds. Competing Jurisdictions. Settling Land Claims in Africa. Leiden, The Netherlands: BRILL, pp. 21-54.
  42. Lahiff, E. & Cousins, B., 2005. Smallholder agriculture and land reform in South AfricaIDS Bulletin, 36(2), pp.127-131.
  43. Cousins, B., 2004. Grounding democracy: The politics of land in post-apartheid South Africa. Mail & Guardian.
  44. Cousins, B. & Claassens, A., 2004. Communal land rights, democracy and traditional leaders in post-apartheid South Africa. In P. Jones & K. Stokke, eds. Democratising Development: The Politics of Socio-Economic Rights in South Africa. Leiden, The Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, pp. 245-270.
  45. Cousins, B. & Kepe, T., 2004. Decentralisation when land and resource rights are deeply contested: a case study of the Mkambati eco-tourism project on the Wild Coast of South AfricaThe European Journal of Development Research, 16(1), pp.41-54.
  46. Cousins, B., 2003. The Zimbabwe crisis in its wider context: The politics of land, democracy and development in Southern Africa. In B. Raftopoulos & S. Jensen, eds. Unfinished Business: Rethinking land, state and citizenship in Zimbabwe. Harare: Weaver Press.
  47. Benjaminsen, T.A., Cousins, B. & Thompson, L., 2002. Contested resources: Challenges to the governance of natural resources in Southern Africa, Cape Town: Programme for Land and Agrarian Studies.
  48. Cousins, B., 2002. Controversy and consensus in South Africa’s land reform programme’. In Panelist’s response to moderator’s statement for the Regional Workshop on Land Issues in Africa, Kampala. Regional Workshop on Land Issues in Africa. Kampala.
  49. Cousins, B., 2002. Legislating negotiability: tenure reform in post-apartheid South Africa. In K. Juul & C. Lund, eds. Negotiating Property in Africa. Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Heineman, pp. 67-106.
  50. Cousins, B., 2002. Reforming communal land tenure in South Africa: Why land titling is not the answer. Cape Town: Programme for Land and Agrarian Studies.
  51. Kepe, T. & Cousins, B., 2002. Radical Land Reform is Key to Sustainable Rural Development in South AfricaPolicy Brief 3. Cape Town: Programme for Land and Agrarian Studies.
  52. Rohde, R. et al., 2002. Land reform in Namaqualand: poverty alleviation, stepping stones and ’economic units’. In Papers from the International Symposium, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa, 18-20 October 2000. Contested resources: challenges to the governance of natural resources in Southern Africa. Programme for Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS), pp. 255-268.
  53. Cousins, B., 2001. Not rural development, but "agrarian reform”: Beyond the neo-liberal agenda. In Land Tenure Conference, Durban, November. Department of Land Affairs.
  54. Cousins, B., 2001. Uncertainty and Institutional Design Proposals for Tenure Reform in South AfricaIDS Bulletin, 32(4), pp.54-63.
  55. Kepe, T., Cousins, B. & Turner, S., 2001. Resource tenure and power relations in community wildlife: the case of Mkambati area, South AfricaSociety & Natural Resources, 14(10), pp.911-925.
  56. Lahiff, E. & Cousins, B., 2001. The land crisis in Zimbabwe viewed from south of the LimpopoJournal of agrarian change, 1(4), pp.652-666.
  57. Shackleton, C.M., Shackleton, S.E. & Cousins, B., 2001. The role of land-based strategies in rural livelihoods: the contribution of arable production, animal husbandry and natural resource harvesting in communal areas in South AfricaDevelopment Southern Africa, 18(5), pp.581-604.
  58. Cousins, B., 2000. At the crossroads: Land and agrarian reform in South Africa into the 21st century, Cape Town: Programme for Land and Agrarian Studies.
  59. Cousins, B., 2000. Didiza’s recipe for disasterMail & Guardian.
  60. Cousins, B., 2000. Introduction: does land reform have a future and, if so, who will benefit? In At the Crossroads: land and agrarian reform in South Africa into the twenty-first century. Cape Town and Johannesburg: Programme for Land and Agrarian Studies, University of the Western Cape and National Land Committee.
  61. Cousins, B., 2000. Why land invasions will happen here too... Programme for Land and Agrarian Studies, University of the Western Cape, South Africa.
  62. Cousins, B. 2000. Tenure and common property resources in Africa. In C. Toulmin & J. Quan, eds. Evolving land rights, policy and tenure in Africa. London: Department for International Development (DFID), with International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and Natural Resources Institute (NRI), pp. 151-180.
  63. Kepe, T. et al., 2000. Resource tenure and power relations in community wildlife contexts: the case of the Mkambati area on the Wild Coast of South Africa, International Institute for Environment and Development London.
  64. Lahiff, E. & Cousins, B., 2000. The impact of land reform policy in the Northern Province. In At the crossroads: land and agrarian reform in South Africa into the 21st century. Papers from a conference held at Alpha Training Centre, Broederstroom, Pretoria, South Africa, 26-28 July 1999. Programme for Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS), pp. 92-106.
  65. Shackleton, S., Shackleton, C. & Cousins, B., 2000. Re-valuing the communal lands of southern Africa: new understandings of rural livelihoods, London: Overseas Development Institute.
  66. Shackleton, S.E., Shackleton, C.C. & Cousins, B., 2000. The economic value of land and natural resources to rural livelihoods: case studies from South Africa. In At the crossroads: land and agrarian reform in South Africa into the 21st century: Papers from a conference held at Alpha Training Centre, Broederstroom, Pretoria, South Africa, 26-28 July 1999.. Programme for Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS), pp. 35-67.
  67. Adams, M., Cousins, B. & Manona, S., 1999. Land tenure and economic development in rural South Africa, London: Overseas Development Institute.
  68. Cousins, B., 1999. Invisible capital: The contribution of communal rangelands to rural livelihoods in South AfricaDevelopment Southern Africa, 16(2), pp.299-318.
  69. Cousins, B., 1999. The economic benefits of tenure reform. unpublished memo for the Department of Land Affairs.
  70. Rodhe, R., Hoffman, M.T. & Cousins, B., 1999. Experimenting with the commons, Land Reform and Agrarian changes in South Africa, Cape Town: Programme for Land and Agrarian Studies.
  71. Cousins, B., 1998. How Rights Become Real? Formal and Informal Institutions in South Africa’s Tenure Reform Programme. In Proceedings of the International Conference on Land Tenure in the Developing World, University of Cape Town. pp. 88-100.
  72. Cousins, B., Cousins, D. & Lund, F.J., 1998. Lessons from Riemvasmaak for land reform policies and programmes in South Africa, Cape Town: Programme for Land and Agrarian Studies.
  73. Cousins, B., 1997. How do Rights become Real?: Formal and Informal Institutions in South Africa’s Land ReformIDS Bulletin, 28(4), pp.59-68.
  74. Cousins, B., 1996. Conflict Management for Multiple Resource Users in Pastoralist and Agro‐Pastoralist ContextsIDS bulletin, 27(3), pp.41-54.
  75. Cousins, B., 1996. Livestock production and common property struggles in South Africa’s agrarian reformThe Journal of Peasant Studies, 23(2-3), pp.166-208.
  76. Cousins, B., 1996. Range management and land reform policy in post-apartheid South Africa, Cape Town: Programme for Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS).
  77. Cousins, B., Cousins, D. & Theron, J., 1996. Rural livelihoods and small scale agriculture in the Western Cape: the MAG experience. In M. Lipton, M. De Klerk, & Mark Lipton, eds. Land, Labour and Livelihoods.
  78. Cousins, B., 1995. A role for common property institutions in land redistribution programmes in South Africa, International Institute for Environment and Development, Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Livelihoods Programme.
  79. Cousins, B., 1995. Common property institutions and land reform in South Africa 1Development Southern Africa, 12(4), pp.481-507.
  80. Cousins, B., 1994. Issues and options for institutional change for rural development, agriculture, and land reform, Johannesburg: Land and Agriculture Policy Centre.
  81. Cousins, B., 1994. Livestock production and agrarian reform in South Africa. In Community Perspectives on Land and Agrarian Reform Project: Final Workshop, 11-13 March 1994.
  82. Cousins, B., 1993. A political economy model of common property regimes and the case of grazing management in Zimbabwe, Centre for Applied Social Sciences, University of Zimbabwe.
  83. Cousins, B., 1993. Debating communal tenure in ZimbabweJournal of Contemporary African Studies, 12(1), pp.29-39.
  84. Cousins, B., 1993. Property and Power in Zimbabwe’s Communal Lands: Implications for Agrarian Reform in the 1990s, Centre for Applied Social Sciences, University of Zimbabwe.
  85. Cousins, B., Weiner, D. & Amin, N., 1992. Social differentiation in the communal lands of ZimbabweReview of African Political Economy, 19(53), pp.5-24.
  86. Cousins, B., Weiner, D. & Amin, N., 1990. The Dynamics of Social Differentiation in the Communal Lands of Zimbabwe, Harare: Centre for Applied Social Sciences, University of Zimbabwe.
  87. Scoones, I. & Cousins, B., 1989. A participatory model of agricultural research and extension: the case of vleis, trees, and grazing schemes in the dry south of ZimbabweZambezia, 16(1), pp.45-65.

 

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