Property Rights and Society Discussion Group


The Property Rights and Society Discussion Group comprises a group of interdisciplinary scholars with a mutual interest in the study of property in its many forms and the ways it impacts on and is expressed through society across cultures and jurisdictions at the global level. The group runs a series of work-in-progress papers involving scholars from UVic and beyond.

Martin Bunton
Program Committee Chair, Centre for Global Studies,
Professor, Department of History

Andrew Buck,
Associate Fellow, Centre for Global Studies,
Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Law and Department of History

To Share, Not Surrender

To Share, Not Surrender

WHEN: Friday, January 28th, 2022
1:00pm - 2:30pm (Pacific Time)


DETAILS: To Share, Not Surrender appraises the historical and present-day relevance of treaty-making in the colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia. The authors take us back to when James Douglas and his family relocated to Fort Victoria on Vancouver Island in 1849, critically tracing the transition from treaty-making in the colony of Vancouver Island to reserve formation in the colony of British Columbia. The chapters demonstrate that the continuing inability to arrive at equitable land-sharing arrangements stem from a fundamental absence of will with respect to accommodating First Nations world views. To Share, Not Surrender is an attempt to understand why, and this to advance the urgent task of reconciliation in Canada.

Dr. Peter Cook
is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at the University of Victoria. He hails from the Ottawa Valley, the traditional territory of a number of Algonquin nations. His research focuses on alliances and treaty making involving Indigenous groups in eastern North America between 1500 and 1850. His current project examines the background to an `1847 surrender of lands in upper Canada.

Neil Vallance
was a lawyer in private practice in Victoria for many years. In 2016 he obtained a PhD from the Faculty of Law at the University of Victoria with a dissertation on the formation of the Vancouver Island (or “Douglas”) Treaties of 1850-1854. For the last twenty years he has researched and written ethno-historical reports on Vancouver Island Treaty Claims. He currently teaches a course on residential property law at the University of Victoria.

‘The Lawful Forest’ with Cristy Clark and John Page

This presentation provides an overview of the authors’ forthcoming book, The Lawful Forest: A Critical History of Property, Protest and Spatial Justice (Edinburgh University Press 2022), which surveys the legal geographies of the commons. Using the metaphor of the ‘lawful forest’ as both material place and metaphysical idea, the authors argue that hegemonic spatial orderings are neither pre-ordained nor inevitable, but the outcome of centuries of erasure and violence. Identifying ‘shadow revolutions’ from the Forest Charter of 1217 to the ecological communes of the 1970s, and more, this presentation explores how a critical history of space and place reveals recurring ‘continuities’ that disrupt enclosure’s linear narrative, and depict a relational, communitarian understanding of property that is both ancient in its provenance, yet prefigurative of future spatial choices.

Dr. Cristy Clark is a senior lecturer with the University of Canberra Law School, Australia. Her research focuses on legal geography, the commons, and the intersection of human rights, neoliberalism, activism and the environment.

Dr. John Page is a professor of law at Southern Cross University, Australia. His research explores the diversity of property in the common law tradition, and how property intersects with public space, the materiality of place, and the propertied design of lived landscapes.

The Laws and the Land: The Settler Colonial Invasion of Kahnawà:ke in Nineteenth-Century Canada

As the settler state of Canada expanded into Indigenous lands, settlers dispossessed Indigenous people and undermined their sovereignty as nations. One site of invasion was Kahnawà:ke, a Kanien’kehá:ka community and part of the Rotinonhsiónni confederacy. In The Laws and the Land, Daniel Rück delineates the intersection of the establishment of a settler colonial relationship from early contact ways of sharing land; land practices under Kahnawà:ke law; the establishment of modern Kahnawà:ke in the context of French imperial claims; intensifying colonial invasions under British rule; and ultimately the Canadian invasion in the guise of the Indian Act, private property, and coercive pressure to assimilate. It is one story of the "slow violence" of Canada’s legal and environmental conquest of Indigenous peoples and lands, and the persistence of one Indigenous nation in the face of the onslaught. Understanding this story involves issues of human relations with environments, communal and individual ways of relating to land, legal pluralism, historical racism and inequality, and Indigenous resurgence.

Daniel Rück is Assistant Professor in the Department of History and the Institute of Indigenous Research and Studies at the University of Ottawa. He is a settler scholar living and working on the unceded territory of the Algonquin nation along the Kitchissippi (Ottawa River).

“I've Been Here All the While: Black Freedom on Native Land” with Dr. Alaina Roberts

Alaina Roberts Property and Dispossession Series Speaker

In nineteenth-century Indian Territory (modern-day Oklahoma), a story unfolds that ties African American and Native American history tightly together, revealing a western theatre of Civil War and Reconstruction, in which Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole Indians, their Black slaves, and African Americans and whites from the eastern United States fought military and rhetorical battles to lay claim to land that had been taken from others. As Black, white, and Native people constructed ideas of race, belonging, and national identity, this part of the West became, for a short time, the last place where Black people could escape Jim Crow, finding land and exercising political rights, until Oklahoma Statehood in 1907.  

Dr. Alaina Roberts is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Roberts’ research focuses on the intersection of African American and Native American history from the nineteenth century to the modern day with particular attention to identity, settler colonialism, and anti-Blackness. She is the author of I've Been Here All the While: Black Freedom on Native Land (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2021).

"Enclosure, Dispossession, and the Nineteenth-Century British Novel", with Dr. Carolyn Lesjak

In this talk, Dr. Lesjak presented an overview of her new book, The Afterlife of Enclosure: British Realism, Character, and the Commons, with a particular focus on the ways in which nineteenth-century British writers grappled with the profound transformations wrought by enclosure and the forms of dispossession it entailed. The presentation focused on the ties between enclosure and private property, fears of overpopulation, and the management of the poor and the persistence of the commons in the face of these assaults against it, both historically and in British realist novels of the nineteenth century. It highlighted both the longue durée of resistance to enclosure and the processes of “accumulation by dispossession” that link the old enclosures and the new enclosures today.

Dr. Carolyn Lesjak is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of English, Simon Fraser University. She specializes in nineteenth-century British literature and culture, Marxist and feminist theory, and theories of the novel. She is the author of Working Fictions: A Genealogy of the Victorian Novel (Duke UP) and, most recently, The Afterlife of Enclosure: British Realism, Character, and the Commons (Stanford UP, 2021).

"The Unjust & Uncertain Tenure of Property in Persons: Slavery and Dispossession”, with Dr. Laura Brace

In this talk, Dr. Brace focused on the pamphlets of the antislavery debates in the 1790s. Antislavery writers argued that the West India planters were receivers of stolen goods, persevering in what they knew to be wrong, and dispossessing the enslaved of their fundamental property in their persons. The planters emerge as abettors and accomplices in iniquity and oppression. This presentation focused on their response, the arguments of the planters and their allies in defence of their property. What were they trying to hold on to in the face of these abolitionist arguments? The presentation explored some of the layers of dispossession at the heart of slavery as a ‘species of property’ that was regarded as valuable but precarious. What did it mean to own a property in other people, and what did the riskiness and uncertainty of that ownership mean for the property rights of the planters? As their right to property in their slaves came under attack from antislavery writers and campaigners, how did they try to shore up their ownership and mount a defence against their own dispossession?

Dr. Laura Brace is Associate Professor, Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Leicester, UK. Her research agenda focuses on the politics of property, and in particular the connections between self-ownership, gender, race and empire. She is the author of The Politics of Slavery (Edinburgh UP, 2018), The Politics of Property (Edinburgh UP, 2004) and The Idea of Property in seventeenth-century England (Manchester UP, 1998).

"Lineages of Dispossession:  Palestinian Land Loss across Time and Geography”, with Dr. Gary Fields

This talk situated the modern-day dispossession of Palestinians within a longer historical time frame and across a broader geographical reach of land seizure initiated by actor groups with territorial ambitions.  Using case study material from the English Enclosures, the Anglo-American colonial frontier, and modern Palestine, the talk proposed – tentatively – a model for deployment in the study of other cases of land seizure and dispossession.

Dr. Gary Fields is a Professor in the Department of Communication and an affiliate of the Department of History at the University of California, San Diego and is the author of ‘Enclosure: Palestinian Landscapes in a Historical Mirror’ (University of California Press, 2017).