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SOAS scholar argues property can function as a tool of governance

9 August 2013

Property is productive of temporal and spatial order and so can function as a tool of governance, according to Dr Sarah Keenan, a lecturer in Law at the SOAS, University of London.

In the scholar’s essay Property as Governance: Time, Space and Belonging in Australia’s Northern Territory Intervention, Dr Keenan analyses two cases brought by aboriginal Australians against the Australian government's forceful acquisition of long leases of their land under the Northern Territory National Emergency Response Act 2007 (NTNERA).

Through examining the legal geographies in the Northern Territory of Australia, specifically Maningrida and the Alice Springs town camps, Dr Keenan’s article concludes these areas are spaces of aboriginal belonging.

The scholar says: “Building on an understanding of property as a spatially contingent relation of belonging, I have argued that these Northern Territory areas are spaces where, unlike the rest of Australia, aboriginality functions as property.

“Being aboriginal is a relation of belonging that is held up in these areas, as aboriginal identities, practices and ways of life are conceptually, socially and physically supported in ways that they are not in the rest of Australia.

“The meaning and effect of property, and in particular, of the federal government’s compulsory leases of land in these areas under the NTNERA, must be understood in this spatial context.”

Sorry in Australia

Read the full article on Property as Governance: Time, Space and Belonging in Australia’s Northern Territory Intervention.

Friday 9 August is the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, find out more.