In economic anthropology the term 'property' has been widely treated as referring to historically changeable set of claims, rights and obligations between persons with respect to resources of some kind, material or immaterial. Rather than seeing individual private property as a human universal, anthropologists have long noted that such constellations of prescriptive relations vary widely between one social, historical or political setting and the next. Currently dominant concepts and practices of 'disembedded' private property emerged in particular historical circumstances and have been powerfully exported in the colonial and postcolonial periods. Anthropologists have attempted to historicize, relativize and denaturalize reductionist notions of property, exploring the diversity and complexity of rights with regard to land and other resources, state socialist property and its privatisation, the expansion of property claims to material and immaterial assets. In doing so they have questioned the relationships between, and conceptualisations of, persons and things.
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