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Working group

The social function of property

Add to calendar 2024-04-04 14:00 2024-04-04 16:00 Europe/Rome The social function of property Zoom Zoom YYYY-MM-DD


Thu 04 Apr 2024 14.00 - 16.00

Thu 04 Apr 2024 14.00 - 16.00




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In a collaborative and participatory manner, this workshop aims to foster a discussion that questions comparative classical understandings of property in dialogue with ideas about its social and ecological function and its interaction with economic development.


In the minds of many, property has come to mean the exclusive right of a person to possess, enjoy, and dispose of a thing. This liberal classical view of property is often associated with economic development and efficiency. The interpretation, which has taken precedence over other understandings (particularly those that centre on its social aspect) has led to a focus on the relations between individuals and what they own, rather than the broader implications for society. As a legal device, property is not so much concerned with the relations between people and things, but rather about the relationship between persons, as it produces legal effects that allow an individual to exclude others. As such, social factors have always been fundamental to its legal conceptualisation. Certain national jurisdictions and legal traditions, such Brazil and Colombia, have even gone so far as to include explicit references to the social function of property in their constitutions.

In a context of rising socio-economic inequalities, calls for reparations, the Anthropocene, and mounting environmental degradation, there are calls for the advent of a transformative private law. Could focusing on the social function of property allow the emergence of transformative conceptions of property?

About the speakers

Helena Alviar García is a Colombian professor at Sciences Po law school who holds an SJD from Harvard Law School and a law degree from Universidad de Los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia. She has written about authoritarianism, granting rights to nature, transitional justice, feminist legal theory, law and development, property law and social and economic rights.

Gildelen Aty-Biyo is a PhD researcher in law at the European University Institute (EUI). She holds a bachelor’s degree in social sciences, with a specialisation in African and European studies from Sciences Po Paris. She researches natural resources governance and ownership, as well as indigenous and local communities access rights in Central Africa. Her research interests are at the intersection of international law, transnational law, property rights and Global South epistemologies. She is interested in socio-legal empirical research and decolonial methodologies. She is the co-convenor of the EUI Private Law Working Group, the EUI Decolonising Initiative, and Black History Month EUI.

Scientific Organiser(s):

Gildelen Aty-Biyo (EUI)


Gildelen Aty-Biyo (EUI)

Helena Alviar García (Sciences-Po)

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