Situating Property Within Habitat: Reintegrating Place, People, and the Law

Margaret Davies, Lee Godden, Nicole Graham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


‘Habitat’ refers to the socioecological complex of resources and relationships needed by organisms to sustain life and to flourish. Different for every life form, habitats comprise both a physical dimension, the requirements for life, security, and reproduction, including land and waters, and a relational social dimension. As a human construct, property is often seen as something different from habitat – a distributional technique imposed on an inert and otherwise legally unbounded set of freely-available resources. In this article, we argue that, like all life-dependent systems, the different forms of property should be understood as situated within human and nonhuman habitats. The article begins with a review of anthropocentric property narratives that are based on and maintain a distinction between human and nonhuman systems. It then considers existing attempts to connect property and habitat within an anthropocentric frame. Finally, the article considers the reorientation that is possible if we think of property as situated within habitat. Rather than think of legal change through the lens of law reform, we argue that situating property within human and nonhuman habitat provides a narrative that can guide and prefigure property alternatives that will better serve future generations. We outline three key pathways for potential change. These pathways are: (1) change in the conceptual and sociocultural narratives associated with property; (2), continuing reform to the regulation of resource use (specifically land use) that affect the legal form of property; and (3), educative strategies for the transmission of future-oriented knowledge.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Pages (from-to)1-50
Number of pages50
JournalJournal of Law, Property, and Society
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021


  • property
  • habitat
  • law and society


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