Contested Grounds of Property:
Afterlives of Slavery and Settler Colonialism
Public Presentation by Professor Cheryl Harris from UCLA School of Law
DATE: Monday 12th June 2017
TIME: 5.30pm - Pre-presentation Drinks, N.1.03.
6pm - Presentation, MSB.1.37
Property as a legal regime bears the mark of race. In the US chattel slavery and settler colonialism constructed property as legally enforced (or enforceable) racialized expectations: white expectations in the right to control and expropriate Black and indigenous lives, labor and land have been legitimated as cognizable property interests. Slavery’s afterlife and settler colonialism’s essential character continue to enable and constrain expectations through a racialized structure. Property is not simply marked by the distortions of racial domination; racial dispossession is constitutive of (white) property, indexing those expectations that can and cannot be propertized.
Of necessity, asserted expectations of the dispossessed challenge and threaten to undo established expectations. Expectations of redress are expressed through the language of property, as a claim based on a debt owed and are resisted as too disruptive of settled expectations. Contestations over these questions repeatedly erupt as refusals of the dispossessed to accept the existing baseline and the racialized expectations on which they are based. Black and Native American histories and current experience reveal the racial terrain of competing claims over "property". While the law has ignored or refused to legitimate Black and Native Americans expectations as property, or has affirmed them only temporarily, they never have been and cannot be definitively foreclosed.
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Cheryl I. Harris is the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation Chair in Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at University of California (Los Angeles) School of Law where she teaches Constitutional Law, Civil Rights, Employment Discrimination, Critical Race Theory and Race Conscious Remedies. Professor Harris' scholarship is groundbreaking including her acclaimed and influential article, "Whiteness as Property" (Harvard Law Review).