You are invited to attend a guest lecture entitled 'Squatting and the State' by Professor Lorna Fox O'Mahony.
Homeless squatting on vacant land is a property problem for our age. It is a ‘wicked problem’: a large-scale, complex, social, political, economic and legal challenge. There is no agreement on a solution—or, even, on the nature of problem itself, which is variously cast in terms of property rights; housing/homelessness; law-and-order; or securitization. State responses to squatting in periods of political and property crises provide valuable insights to the role of the state in shaping how we think and talk about property law. Yet, mainstream liberal ‘private’ property theories–-essentially ‘non-statist’, framing arguments for or against state action but with little direct consideration of the nature of the ‘state’—are not well-suited to analyzing squatting, particularly in the context of the changing relationships between private property, global capital, individuals and the state.
This paper sets out a novel approach and methodology for analyzing states’ responses to squatting in the context of norms and narratives of property/state relations, and their role in the making and re-making of the state. The approach resists the habits of conventional property theory discourse (theories for state action/theories against state action) by anchoring analyses in the realities of state action. Drawing on ‘wicked problem’ theory, and applying key insights from vulnerability theory, it sets out a new methodology to ‘tame’ polarizing property problems like homeless squatting on empty land. It elicits new insights for property theorists, by revealing the role of ‘private’ property law in mediating tensions between the state’s ‘other-regarding’ responsibility to govern private property in the interests of individuals/markets/society; and the state’s own ‘self-regarding’ needs for economic stability and political legitimacy. The paper proposes an alternative normative perspective for property theory, rooted in a new ‘equilibrium theory’ of property law.
Lorna Fox O’Mahony is Professor of Law at Essex Law School and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Designate. Her research applies policy-oriented, socio-legal and theoretical analyses to a range of property issues. Her work has explored the role of cross-disciplinary and interdisciplinary research into home meanings for creditor possession actions; feminist perspectives on the meaning of home; social and moral aspects of legal regulation of unlawful occupation; the role of the legal concept of home in analysing laws responses to the use of home equity by elderly homeowners and other financial transactions affecting the owned home; socio-legal perspectives on the exclusion of asylum seekers and failed asylum seekers from housing and home; and critical property theory.
A light lunch will be provided.