05 May 2023
Professor Jessica Shoemaker presented as an invited panelist at the American Association of Geographer (AAG)'s Annual Meeting this year. Her presentation, "Property and Place: Calibrating Commodification," was part of a special themed session on "Geographies of Real Property Across the Urban/Rural Divide."
Read the presentation abstract below:
This project of legal scholarship analyzes the role of property law in shaping patterns of increasing commodification of both urban and rural land ownership. As our most fundamental system for regulating access to or exclusion from specific spaces, property law choices profoundly structure our social relations and our physical, material world. In this project, I focus on how property law not only facilitates but actively encourages these more abstract and disembodied forms of ownership.
Despite popular rhetoric about the primacy of possession and human attachments to land, the reality on the ground includes numerous instances of real property rights recognized without any requirement of owner possession whatsoever and, conversely, extensive examples of real-time possessors who are denied any property protection. This project covers both rural and urban examples, exploring increasing institutional and foreign investment in American farmland (as rural landscapes further depopulate and agriculture gets increasingly industrialized) and private equity’s growing appetite for single-family housing (as America’s glaring wealth gap expands).
Property law is a common feature in shaping this more commodified form of land ownership across geographies, and so a more detailed analysis of how property does this work across diverse contexts can reveal important insights about which features of property design are most impactful and why. At the same time, thinking across these spaces can also reveal where contextual differences may matter for future law reform work, including different types of leasehold precarity and different capacities to implement and enforce more public oversight and land-use regulation.