Current Legal Problems Lecture Series 2013-14
Professor Lorna Fox O'Mahony
University of Essex
Chaired by Lord Wilson of Culworth, UK Supreme Court
Thursday 5th December 2013
from 6 - 7pm
Of all areas of law, it is property – particularly as it relates to housing and home – that affects people most consistently and directly. Yet, while people are intensely interested in property, property – broadly understood as the laws, doctrines and policies that govern the acquisition, accumulation, management and transfer of resources – does not appear to reciprocate. This lecture explores how the traditional methodologies of property law scholarship – centred on the status quo of established rights, obligations and duties, and invoking the ‘property values’ of certainty, autonomy, efficiency – marginalise the human ‘subjects’ of the property system. The lecture seeks to raise questions concerning the role of property law and property scholarship: is it to understand and make the best out of the available material; to achieve change in a progressive (or progressive but incremental) way; or to contribute to, or at least not to prevent, progress towards greater substantive equality between property’s ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’? In exploring these questions, the lecture reflects on the hidden politics of property discourse and its impact on the (in)visibility of the property outsider’s human experience within legal analyses, arguments and decision-making. Finally, this analysis is related to a series of ‘property problems’ in which ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’ compete for ownership or access to resources, with the aims of considering an alternative approach to problem-based property scholarship that starts from the person rather than the law, and reflecting on the implications of this approach for normative arguments invoking ‘property’s values’.
Biography of the speaker
Lorna Fox O’Mahony is Professor of Law at Essex Law School and Executive Dean of the Faculty of Humanities. Lorna’s research applies policy-oriented, socio-legal and theoretical analyses to a range of property issues. Recent projects have included 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 law’s responses to the use of home equity by elderly homeowners and other financial transactions affecting the owned home; and socio-legal perspectives on the exclusion of asylum seekers and failed asylum seekers from housing and home.
Lorna’s work on the development of a legal concept of home is often cited as laying the foundations for new approaches to the idea of home in law, including giving content to rights to housing and home. Her first book, ‘Conceptualising Home: Theories, Laws and Policies’ (2006, Hart Publishing), which applies an inter-disciplinary socio-legal analysis to re-consider law’s response to disputes between secured creditors and the occupiers of domestic property in the contexts of repossession, foreclosure and bankruptcy, was awarded First Prize in the Society of Legal Scholars’ Birks Prizes for Outstanding Legal Scholarship (2007), and was short-listed for the Socio-Legal Studies Association Book Prize (2008).
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