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    Smoke, curtains and mirrors: the production of race through time and title registration

    Keenan, Sarah (2017) Smoke, curtains and mirrors: the production of race through time and title registration. Law and Critique 28 (1), pp. 87-108. ISSN 0957-8536.

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    This article analyses the temporal effects of title registration and their relationship to race. It traces the move away from the retrospection of pre-registry common law conveyancing and toward the dynamic, future-oriented Torrens title registration system. The Torrens system, developed in early colonial Australia, enabled the production of ‘clean’, fresh titles that were independent of their predecessors. Through a process praised by legal commentators for ‘curing’ titles of their pasts, this system produces indefeasible titles behind its distinctive ‘curtain’ and ‘mirror’, which function similarly to magicians’ smoke and mirrors by blocking particular realities from view. In the case of title registries, those realities are particular histories of and relationships with land, which will not be protected by property law and are thus made precarious. Building on interdisciplinary work which theorises time as a social tool, I argue that Torrens title registration produces a temporal order which enables land market coordination by rendering some relationships with land temporary and making others indefeasible. This ordering of relationships with land in turn has consequences for the human subjects who have those relationships, cutting futures short for some and guaranteeing permanence to others. Engaging with Renisa Mawani and other critical race theorists, I argue that the categories produced by Torrens title registration systems materialise as race.


    Item Type: Article
    Additional Information: The final publication is available at Springer via the link above.
    Keyword(s) / Subject(s): Colonialism, land, race, time, title registration, Torrens
    School: School of Law > Law
    Depositing User: Sarah Keenan
    Date Deposited: 29 Nov 2016 11:20
    Last Modified: 15 Feb 2022 12:50


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