Ships in the Settler Imagination
537 Heller Hall (ICGC)
The Torrens system is today the preferred system of land registration across most of the Commonwealth. Its original theater of experimentation however was South Australia, a peripheral settler colony. A curious feature of the Torrens system is that it imagines land to behave as ships do, that is to say, be on the move. This, despite land’s canonical role as immovable ground (solum) to which all movable chattels (superficies) yield. Why ships, then? What does that legal analogy tell us about the perceived behavior of land whilst in the process of being settled? And how does that historical imagination inform present day land reclamation, where territory is parted, parceled, and made to migrate by vessel, exhibiting an uncanny liquidity?
About the Speaker
Beverly is a cultural anthropologist and visiting scholar at ICGC. She received her PhD from the University of Minnesota and was previously Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the legal humanities at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She studies migrant labor, land law, and Indigeneity in maritime Southeast Asia and her work has been published in interdisciplinary venues such as Philosophy Today and Culture, Theory and Critique.