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On some sites I get the following error when trying to activate the publishing feature.

Event log message was: 'Failed to initialize some site properties for Web at Url: 'http://intranet/social'. Exception was: 'Microsoft.SharePoint.SPException: The object specified does not belong to a list.
   at Microsoft.SharePoint.SPWeb.GetItem(String strUrl, Boolean bFile, Boolean cacheRowsetAndId, Boolean bDatesInUtc, String[] fields)
   at Microsoft.SharePoint.SPFile.get_Item()
   at Microsoft.SharePoint.Publishing.MasterUrlProperty.SetDirectValue(String value, SPWeb web)
   at Microsoft.SharePoint.Publishing.InheritableProperty`1.SetInherit(Boolean inherit, Boolean forceAllSubWebInherit, String successUrl, String failureUrl, Boolean& updateRequired)
   at Microsoft.SharePoint.Publishing.InheritableProperty`1.SetInherit(Boolean inherit, Boolean forceAllSubWebInherit, Boolean& updateRequired)
   at Microsoft.SharePoint.Publishing.Internal.AreaProvisioner.SetMasterPageProperties(PublishingWeb area, Boolean& updateRequired)
   at Microsoft.SharePoint.Publishing.Internal.AreaProvisioner.SetLayoutRelatedProperties(PublishingWeb area, Boolean& updateRequired)
   at Microsoft.SharePoint.Publishing.Internal.AreaProvisioner.InitializePublishingWebDefaults()'

The Publishing feature is activated at the sc. I can activate the feature in some sites of a site collection, but not others.

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What template did you use to create the sites? There are a few features missing from blank sites (like taxonomy fields) that are probably required for publishing. I would use SharePoint Manager to review hidden features between the sites that work and don't and look at the template used.

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I ran into this same error message and it turned out that the person creating the subsite didn't have the proper permission to get access to the Master Page Gallery in the root of the site collection, where my master page lived, because we had created an alternate Restricted Readers group. You can read a more thorough explanation of the problem (and my particular solution) here:

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