Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Source Publication

Van Wagner E., Views from the periphery: Examining non-ownership in property law (accepted, in press, 2022) in Graham, N., Davies M., & Godden, L. Handbook of Law Property and Society (London: Routledge).


Property Law; Non-ownership; Indigenous law; Aboriginal title; Homelessness


Property law structures the way we make decisions about how we live together and with the world around us. In doing so, it shapes, but is also shaped by, our relationships with the places we inhabit and encounter. Traditionally, non-owners are defined by their distance and exclusion from the primary legal relationship and their lack of enforceable interests. Yet, land use conflicts continue to arise because people routinely assert relationships with land and resources that they are not formally recognised as owning but with which they are deeply entangled. This chapter touches briefly on three examples: the relations of Indigenous Peoples with fee simple lands within Canada; Māori ownership of freshwater in Aotearoa New Zealand; and claims to public space made by unhoused persons. Though these people–place relations are shaped by their legal definition as non-owner relations, purportedly severed and obscured for legal decision-making, they continue to shape formal legal property relations. As such, they deserve recognition as more than peripheral to property law. This chapter traces the assertion of these ‘more-than-ownership’ relations as part of the necessary work of rebuilding a system of property that sustains us as relational beings embedded in the complex materiality of places.