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Changes in property rights and land regulation

Global and historical perspectives

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Published on Wednesday, May 15, 2024


How do land reforms affect land access and property rights? Who are the actors of these transformations? Does such evolution contribute to the commodification and financialization of land? How do urban regulations produce informalities and affect socio-spatial dynamics? This half-day thematic seminar seeks to delve into these key questions with two roundtables. Aiming to inform today’s urban transformations through law and history, the six presentations will cover different contexts as diverse as Istanbul, Northern Italy, rural China, Madrid, and colonial Bombay, spanning from the 14th century to today.



Roundtable 1 : Land transformations : laws, institutional arrangements and the making of property rights 

Moderated by Petra Samaha | 2 :00-3 :45 pm

Throughout history, governments have used customs and laws to organize and codify access to land in different forms. Often, land reforms amended these laws by rearranging land access through property titles. How did land reforms affect land access and ownership rights in different contexts ? Did they contribute to the commodification and financialization of land by making “property” of it ? What processes and actors were involved ? How have these affected land use change, such as in agriculture or urban development ? This panel will provide valuable insights into the complex interplay between land reform, property rights, and institutional changes in diverse regions and times : Italy and India in the 19th century, and China in the 20th century.

Speakers : 

  • Michela Barbot is Permanent Researcher at the CNRS Research Unit IDHE.S and Adjunct Professor of History and Social Sciences at the Ecole normale supérieure Paris-Saclay. Since 2020, she has also been teaching urban history at the Urban School of Sciences Po. At the intersection of economic and legal history, her researches focus on the historical evolution of property rights, valuation procedures and real estate markets in Italy and continental Europe (16th-20th centuries). On these topics, she has published the books Property Rights and their Violations. Expropriation, Seizure and Confiscation in Europe and its Settlements, 16th-20th centuries (Peter Lang, 2012, edited with L. Lorenzetti and L. Mocarelli), and Les règles de la valeur. Une histoire juridique de l’évaluation économique (Presses de l’Université Toulouse Capitole, forthcoming). 
  • Sukriti Issar is Associate Professor in CRIS (Center for Research on Social Inequalities) at Sciences Po, Paris. She is the scientific advisor of the Governing the Large Metropolis master’s program at the Urban School of Sciences Po, Paris. Her research interests focus on urban policy, regulations, property and law, and social history.
  • Thomas Vendryes is Assistant Professor of Economics at University/ENS Paris Saclay, Centre for Economics at Paris-Saclay (CEPS). Specialized in the field of Development Economics, he is in particular interested in the two-way relationship between institutions and development. One of his main topics of research has been the evolution of land rights and related institutions in rural China since the onset of the « reform and opening » era in 1978, questioning how this evolution has shaped the Chinese experience of development, and how it has been shaped by local political economy mechanisms.

Coffee break

Roundtable 2 : Regulating land and producing (in)formalities through time and space 

Moderated by Marcela Alonso Ferreira | 4 :15-6 :00 pm

Various forms of land regulation have historically made and unmade urban settlements informal, irregular, or non-compliant as they impose certain rules on land use, development, and construction. Examples abound, from housing considered “unsanitary” in late 19th century London to “irregular” land subdivisions in mid-20th century São Paulo and contemporary “energy-intensive” housing in Paris. This roundtable aims to bring together research tracing changes in urban land regulations and explain their production and/or effects in urban societies across the Global North and South and different historical periods. Which types of regulations (sanitary, land use, land development, construction, environmental, etc.) produce (in)formalities ? How do multiple urban land regulations interact or conflict ? What effects do they produce in spatial and social dynamics ?

Speakers : 

  • Charlotte Vorms is an assistant professor (maîtresse de conférences) at Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, based at the Centre d’histoire sociale des mondes contemporains (CHS). Her research and teaching focus on cities and urban societies in Spain and France, with a broader view across Euro-American settings. She studies the phenomenon of informal urbanization, as a revealing lens to explore social organization, social norms, and their evolution in different contexts. Recently, she completed a new manuscript on the governance of shanty towns in Madrid under the Francoist regimeHer publications include Bâtisseurs de banlieue. La Prosperidad à Madrid 1860-1936 (Créaphis Éditions, 2012), translated into Spanish as La forja del extrarradio. La construcción del Madrid popular 1860-1936 (2022) ; « Favelas, bidonvilles, baracche, etc. : recensements et fichiers », special issue of Histoire & Mesure (with Françoise de Barros, 2019) ; L’urbanisme espagnol depuis les années 1970. La ville, la démocratie et le marché (with Laurent Coudroy de Lille and Céline Vaz, PUR, 2013) ; What’s in a name ? Talking about ‘suburbs’ (with Richard Harris, University of Toronto Press, 2017) and Informal Cities : History, Power and Precarity in Latin Europe, Latin America, and Colonial North Africa (with Brodwyn Fischer, forthcoming, University of Chicago Press, 2025). 
  • Valérie Clerc is a Senior Research Fellow specializing in Urban Studies at the French National Research Institute for Development (IRD) and the Center for Social Science Studies on Africa, America, and Asia (CESSMA, Université Paris Cité). With a background in architecture and urban planning, her research primarily focuses on the study of slums and informal settlements and the examination of public policies that address them. Her expertise encompasses land, housing, property markets, public action, and urban planning practices. She has conducted research in several countries, including Lebanon (1997-2001), Cambodia (2001-2005), and Syria (as responsible for the Urban Observatory of the Middle East at the French Institute of the Near East, Ifpo, 2007-2011). Currently, her research is centered on Syria, Myanmar and India. 
  • Ozan Karaman is a CNRS researcher in urban geography, based in LATTS (Research Centre on Technologies, Territories and Societies) in France. He was previously a lecturer in human geography at the University of Glasgow, and a researcher in urban sociology at the Singapore-ETH Centre. His work has been in urban political economy, urban theory, and comparative urbanism, with a particular focus on Istanbul. He’s been the PI of an ERC (European Research Council) funded research project on uneven globalization of real estate markets, exploitation of urban land rent, and the ways in which these are contested at different scales.


Compulsory registration here : https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScK6qrKjNqdezhdUek5Rr-5VhV8Fli2V5bwevcyLJukwMBiQA/viewform ?usp =sf_link


  • Sciences Po, Salle Goguel - 27 Rue Saint Guillaume
    Paris, France (75007)

Event attendance modalities

Full on-site event


  • Tuesday, May 21, 2024


  • cities, land, property law, informality


  • Cities are Back in Town
    courriel : citiesarebackintow [at] sciencespo [dot] fr

Reference Urls

Information source

  • Petra Samaha
    courriel : petra [dot] samaha [at] sciencespo [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Changes in property rights and land regulation », Study days, Calenda, Published on Wednesday, May 15, 2024, https://doi.org/10.58079/11oba

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