Bates conference to explore aspects of property

Stephen Engel, associate professor of politics. (Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)

Stephen Engel, associate professor of politics. (Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)

Presenting a diverse group of scholars from Yale, Northwestern, the University of Maine and other institutions, Bates College hosts the daylong conference Property: Claims to Ownership and Responsibilities of Stewardship in Multidisciplinary Perspective at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 17, in the Benjamin Mays Center, 95 Russell St.

Sponsored by Bates and the American Bar Foundation, the conference is open to the public at no cost, but seating is first-come, first-served. For more information, please contact co-organizers Stephen Engel, associate professor and chair of politics at Bates, or Michael Sargent, associate professor of psychology, at or

The conference comprises two morning panel discussions followed at midday by a plenary address exploring the potential of undergraduate legal studies in the liberal arts context. The plenary speaker is Laura Beth Nielsen, professor of sociology and director of the Center for Legal Studies at Northwestern University and research professor at the American Bar Foundation.

See a complete schedule, presentation abstracts and a compilation of conference presenters at

Michael Sargent, associate professor of psychology. (Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)

Michael Sargent, associate professor of psychology. (Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)

The nine research presenters represent the American Bar Foundation, Bates, Bowdoin College, Chicago–Kent College of Law, the University of Maine, the University of Miami School of Law, the University of Wisconsin, the University of Virginia, and Yale Law School. Faculty from Bates and Bowdoin will serve as discussants, facilitating fruitful exchanges between presenters and audience.

“The conference brings to Bates original research that assesses the many meanings of property as a material, cultural and intellectual object,” says co-organizer Engel.

“The presentations will evaluate how our ideas about ownership influence, and are influenced by, our racial, ethnic and sexual identities, notions of environmental stewardship, and our sense of responsibilities for historical preservation.

“With the aim of uncovering how a foundational idea in law — property — can be newly understood when studied from distinct disciplines, this conference showcases the work of historians, sociologists, political scientists, philosophers, legal scholars, economists, art historians, and literary scholars. In so doing, the conference illustrates how law and legal concepts can be fruitfully engaged within the robust interdisciplinary inquiry that is the hallmark of the liberal arts.”

The eight presentations will explore topics as disparate as:

  • the impact on ocean stewardship of Marine Spatial Planning, a process for relating human activity to ocean waters (presented by Bates professor Aslaug Asgeirsdottir);
  • Black Americans’ struggle for landownership in the context of racial apartheid and capitalism in America (Andrew Kahrl, University of Virginia);
  • exotic animal ownership laws (Douglas Kysar and Matt Ampleman, Yale Law School);
  • and issues surrounding Penobscot Indian rights to islands in their namesake river (Micah Pawling, University of Maine).

In addition to the American Bar Foundation, sponsoring the event are these Bates offices and academic programs:

  • the Office of the President;
  • the divisions of social sciences, humanities and interdisciplinary programs;
  • the departments and programs of art and visual culture, economics, history, classical and medieval studies, environmental studies, African American studies, philosophy, politics, psychology, sociology, and women and gender studies;
  • and the Office of Intercultural Education.
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