Racial Regimes of Ownership: Property, Possession & Colonialism

“The Centre for Law and Social Justice, University of Leeds invites you to a talk by Dr Brenna Bhandar.”


Dr Brenna Bhandar is Reader in Law and Critical Theory and Director of Research at SOAS, University of London. She has published widely in the areas of critical legal theory, sovereignty and indigenous rights, and contemporary disputes over ownership and property rights, amongst other themes. She takes a transdisciplinary approach to her research, and draws upon critical race and feminist theory, critical indigenous studies scholarship, postcolonial theory, political philosophy, and legal history.


In this presentation, I will explore the historically embedded relationship between race and property, what I have termed ‘racial regimes of ownership.’ As a prime motor force of colonisation, the entanglement of race and property, haunted by the figure of the possessive individual, continues to shape contemporary modes of dispossession and racial subordination. The production of racial subjectivity and the constitution of private property relations are articulated conjointly, in ways that are neither inevitable nor transhistorical. Rather, the racial regime of ownership requires continual renewal and reinstantiation to prevail over other ways of being and living. I draw on Stuart Hall’s theorization of articulation, and Cedric Robinson’s conceptualization of racial regimes in order to emphasize three different aspects of the constitutive relationship between modern property laws and the racial subject: the noninevitable yet nonarbitrary nature of this juridical formation; the (consequential) necessity for this formation to be continually renewed in the colonial drive to appropriate and control indigenous land; and the recombinant nature of the constituent parts of the racial regime of ownership. By emphasising the contingent and unstable nature of the racial regime of ownership, I will by way of conclusion consider tactics of de-propertisation and estrangement from predominant modes of ownership.

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