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Using a social representations lens, we examined subjective meanings of land entitlements in Central Mindanao among Muslims and Christians. In Study 1, we collected survey data from 231 students from the University of Southern Mindanao in Central Mindanao, asking them: ‘If you were to tell the story of land ownership in Cotabato, what three topics would you want to include in your story?’ Results of our hierarchical evocation analysis show that Christians are concerned with direct conflicts or actual intergroup confrontations while Muslims emphasise land issues. Study 2 implemented Focauldian Discursive Analysis to evaluate two separate focused group discussions by Muslim and Christian village leaders on the question: ‘Who really owns the land in Cotabato, specifically here in Midsayap?’ Findings indicate that Christians hold on to a legal story while Muslims use the ancestral domain narrative to cohere subjective claims to the contested territory. We discuss our results in the light of the role of legalese in an asymmetric territorial conflict and more specifically, the Framework Agreement signed last October 2012 by both the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

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