By looking at the transmission of inheritance as a process of redefining authority and responsibility, this paper argues that what organizes land relations in the central plain of Myanmar are the dynamics of kinship and the moral and social obligations between family members. In Gawgyi, a Burmese village of Buddhists, entitlement to inheritance pervaded the organization of land relations since the precolonial period while successive state projects attempted to systemize land tenure. Saying that nobody owns the land today means that it is uncertain who will own this or that piece of land. It is a statement about the dynamics of family relationships, about the complexity of transmitting inheritance, and about how land relations have been codified. A case study shows that what makes a family – hierarchy, commensality – and the mutual obligations between its members – gratitude, care – create entitlement to property. Foregrounding the fact that land is entangled in multiple relationships, my contribution is an effort to describe how my interlocutors think about ownership in their own terms, that is, as a matter of stewardship: taking care of a patrimony for which others are also entitled. As land tenure and natural resources are increasingly debated in Myanmar in relation to law, policy and customary rights, this article revisit land relations from an anthropological perspective to highlight the complex and fragile linkages between intimate temporalities and question of access, wealth, obligation and responsibility.


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pp. 79-117
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