Hey y’all, how’s life?
I know, I know… DPP has not been particularly interesting lately. In fact, we’ve been down right uncommunicative. My apologies… There’s a good reason for that… Actually a bunch of them, all tied to my day job. Let’s just say it’s been a busy semester and blogging sort of fell by the way-side as I tried to get my fingers around some other work. That said…
I read something this morning that I knew my readers would find interesting. Here’s the link to a blogpost at the Law and Society blog (with another link to a PDF to the full article discussed in the post) by a psotdoctoral fellow at Harvard named Mekonnen Firew Ayano. Her work forcuses on land tenure issues in Ethiopia. Yes, I know, most of the readers of this blog want to hear about property politics and disasters in the US. But let me make a pitch to you about why you might be interested in Dr. Ayano’s work.
Sometimes people ask me why I’m so interested in property. I have been since my early twenties. Now that I’m approaching 50, I can say that it’s a life-long preoccupation. It began when I started thinking about what single moms need to support their families, and how important a job with a career ladder was for a good friend of mine in college (a single mom, working on her degree in business in order to support herself and her son in the future). It made sense to me that access to ownership and the ability to build wealth was pretty obviously connected. I already understood that there were a lot of different kinds of property one could own. She was focused on eventually buying a house, but I remember a fairly clear discussion about retirement and investments.
Later, I learned that women who could own land in underdeveloped places (not just outside the US, mind you, but underdeveloped parts of the US) were empowered to some degree, and as a result they suffered less domestic abuse, could participate in the politics and decision making at the community level, and were much more able to ensure that their children were fed. This was especially true compared to women who did not possess some kind of property (or, in some places in the world, had no right to property of any kind). If you go to DPP’s archive and look, you’ll see this was something I blogged about years and years ago at least once, maybe twice. It’s something I’ve been giving some thought to as I have helped with issues in southeast Missouri, and as a result of some of my research there concerning a landowner from the 1930’s named Price Hess. That’s Mrs. Price Hess, who was born with the name “Emma”. But that’s another story for another day.
Even if this all makes sense to you on some level, you may be telling me that you don’t have time to read about Ethiopia. However, I know you’re reading this because you care about the issues we write about here at DPP, and you may even be involved in the politics of property, or property and disaster recovery. Well, here’s the thing: empirical evidence of this relationship is almost always useful in political contexts. It continues to be clearest in comparative perspectives in scholarship, though. For this reason, I’ve kept up with my training in comparative law and politics, at least insofar as property issues matter despite the fact that I have never written about contexts out of the US (with the exception of a brief foray in a dissertation chapter about property in the EU). Evidence that there is a clear link between the ability of individuals in hard political, social, and economic situations to find their way to a better place is clear in much of this work. Conversely, when governments remove property rights from women or minorities, you can also see the pattern of impoverishment, disempowerment, and manipulation by more powerful people that frequently follows. Scholars can’t write the entire story in one article — you have to read many articles and put the pieces together. I happen to think this is an article worth reading if you are interested in these issues. It’s just one piece of a bigger story, but it’s an important piece.
Also, dear readers, I promise to try to make an appearance in your email box a little more often as 2018 winds down and we turn the page to 2019. In the meantime, I hope all of my US readers have a very good Thanksgiving. I am thankful for all of you!