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Critical Perspectives on Land Registration: Technology and Registration, Registration as Technology

Venue: Online

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In 2018, the Law Commission released its extensive report on updating the Land Registration Act 2002. The same year, HM Land Registry announced its ambition to become “the world’s leading land registry for speed, simplicity and an open approach to data, and aiming to achieve comprehensive registration by 2030”. Meanwhile, other states around the world have taken steps towards paperless, digital platform-based conveyancing. ‘Proptech’, the use of digital platform-based technology to find innovative ways of extracting value from real estate, is emerging as a new industry in late capitalist economies around the world. In the English and Welsh context, the proptech industry is being actively supported by HM Land Registry, even as law struggles to regulate it. Even, arguably, as the courts and others struggle to conceptualise just what land registration actually does, how and why it does this, and whether we actually want it to do what it does.

The transfer of entitlement to enclosed, privatized land is not only a complex legal task, but also one that is dependent on and productive of relations of power. For a very long time, as Alain Pottage has demonstrated, that power was located in local community memory (Pottage 1992, 1994). The seemingly banal change in legal process from proving and transferring title through paper deeds to relying on a central register involved a shift in power away from local community memory and toward a central administrative archive, and a corresponding shift in the very idea of what was being proven and transferred (ibid). This legal technology was first trialled in the colony of South Australia, and its dispossessory effects on racialised populations and on women, whose relationships with land tend to be less amenable to registration, are now being acknowledged (Hanstad 1998; Ye 2009; Mollett 2010; Bhandar 2015; Keenan 2017). As we move away from paper registries and toward digital technology, new constructions of property are being produced and with them new formations of power.  

In light of these developments, new perspectives on land registration and its social, economic and political significance are pressing and important. In this series of online panels, we discuss ideas which address the broader significance of land registration.


Tara Mulqueen, The Legal Enclosure of Mutual Aid: Incorporation by Registration and the 19th Century English Co-operative Movement

Alison Clarke, Reflecting the real world of property

Simon Cooper, The Torrens Paradigm and the Plasticity of Land Registration

This is the second workshop of the series, find out more about the first workshop.

This event is supported by the Socio-legal Studies Association (SLSA).

This event is open to the public and free to attend however booking is required via this page. The event will be hosted on Collaborate, a free to access website. You will be sent a link to access the event upon registration.

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