Call for papers: Decolonial comparative property law

by | 8 Nov 2023

4-6 November 2024 in Brasília (Brazil)

Paper submission deadline: 14 January 2024    Decisions: 14 March 2024

 Call available in Spanish, Portuguese, Kiswahili, and French here:

THEME:  Following  workshops  dedicated  to  methodology  (Witwatersrand  2020)  and  precolonial  law (Oxford  2022),  the  third  Decolonial  Comparative  Law  (DeCoLa)  Workshop  in  Brasília  will  focus  on decolonial  approaches  to  comparative  property  law.  Property  is  of  central  concern  for  decolonial comparative law. Many of the assumptions of Global North property law—such as John Locke’s labour theory of property—emerged in colonial contexts. In addition, neo-colonialism (in the form, for example, of waste colonialism) continues to affect both private and public property in the Global South. Moreover, coloniality  propagates  a  notion  of  property  as  individual  spaces  of  freedom;  this  notion  excludes alternative, non-Northern concepts, such as communal ownership, stewardship, or the personhood of rivers and mountains.

Our workshop aims to delink from colonial notions of property, ownership, and possession, while also recognizing the fluidity and plurality (historical and contemporary) of law in the Global South (customary, indigenous, or otherwise). Building on critiques of modern property law that recognise its relationship to colonialism and its perpetuation of coloniality, we encourage applications of decoloniality to concrete comparative property law case studies, particularly South-South comparisons. Although we recognise the inseparability  of  private  and  public  property  and  the  relevance  of  territorial  sovereignty to the conceptualisation of property, we do not seek merely to repeat the existing international law critiques of these topics. We hope to explore decolonial forms of possession (i.e., abolishing private ownership, right to the city) and decolonial translations of South-based and indigenous property law. Rather than only identifying colonial property law, we welcome papers that engage with decolonial, indigenous, and non-colonial approaches to property. Selected papers would either embrace Indigenous or minority groups’ property law, or plural conceptions of property law which combine precolonial law and daily adaptations to modernity. 

Potential topics include: indigenous and non-colonial conceptualisations of both property and relations to the inanimate world; non-colonial and indigenous access to land and natural resources (such as water); indigenous knowledge as property; distinctions between ownership and possession; legal implications of the inalienability of land and nature; relationships to land and water that differ from the subject-object notion of property. We invite papers that destabilise coloniality by engaging with why and how indigenous and Global South societies define or practise property law and possession, or, conversely, do not.

PAPER  SUBMISSION:  Papers  should  be  based  on  original  research  (ideally  relying  on  primary  or indigenous sources) and on decolonial comparative law methods. Papers should identify “property law” in a specific tradition or place, with particular attention to decolonial, indigenous, or pre-colonial methods and practices. Authors are highly encouraged to make use of the bibliographies on decolonial theory and decolonial legal studies provided on the DeCoLa Project website. Preference will be given to papers that are comparative and engage directly with existing scholarly literature. Please send your paper to our secured Cloud (i) as an attachment in the template provided on the Decolonial Comparative Law Project website (ii) in any language (iii) not exceeding 5,000 words (iv) by 14 January 2024. You will receive acknowledgement of your paper submission by email. 

PEER  REVIEW:  The  peer  review  advisory  board  includes  Ahmad  Amara  (NYU  Tel  Aviv;  Ben  Gurion University),  Roberta  Camineiro  Baggio  (Universidade  Federal  de  Rio  Grande  do  Sul  –  UFRGS),  Isidore Leopold Miendjiem (Université de Dschang), and Ambreena Manji (Cardiff University). 

ACCEPTED PAPERS: Authors of accepted papers will have an opportunity to submit revised versions of their papers for the workshop. Submitted papers that are written in a language other than English will be professionally translated. Papers will be pre-circulated prior to the workshop; authors will not present their papers at the workshop. After peer-review, the papers will be published in an edited volume or journal symposium issue. 


14 January 2024  draft paper due

14 March 2024   acceptance or rejection

14 May 2024    revised draft paper due

4-6 November 2024  onsite presentation and discussion of paper in Brasília

10 January 2025  final paper due

CO-ORGANISERS: This third workshop is co-organised by the DeCoLa Project at the Max Planck Institute for  Comparative  and  International  Private  Law  (MPIPriv)  in  Hamburg  and  the  Decolonization  and Comparing Legal Experiences Network (DECLEN) at Universidade Católica de Brasília. The DeCoLa project is co-directed by Ralf Michaels (MPIPriv), previously cofounded with Lena Salaymeh (Oxford/École Pratique des  Hautes  Etudes).  Kwamou  Eva  Feukeu  (MPIPRiv)  is  the  DeCoLa  project  coordinator.  DECLEN  is  a scholarly network co-run by Deo Campos Santos and Guilherme Roman Borges (Universidade Católica de Brasília). 

LOCATION: The workshop will take place at the Universidade Católica de Brasília and include community conversations with Brazilian activists and interdisciplinary discussions on property. Translation services may be provided. 

FUNDING: MPIPriv provides funding for international participation in the workshop. Organisers expect to offer three nights of accommodation in Brasília and travel reimbursement for authors of accepted papers. 

PROGRAM: The workshop will be followed by a spring school hosted at the Universidade Federal da Bahia on 7-9 November 2024. The workshop and spring school are being coordinated by a program committee, which includes: Anna Lyvia Ribeiro (Real Estate Law Special Commission), André Nunes Chaib (University of Maastricht), Fernanda Frizzo Bragato (Unisinos do Vale do Rio dos Sinos – UNISINOS), Flávia Carlet (Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul – UFRGS), Karina Macedo Gomes Fernandes (Unisinos do Vale do Rio dos Sinos – UNISINOS), Luiz Eduardo de Lacerda Abreu (Universidade de Brasília–UnB), and Tatiana Emilia Dias Gomes (Universidade Federal da Bahia–UFBA). 



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