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    From historical chains to derivative futures: title registries as time machines

    Keenan, Sarah (2019) From historical chains to derivative futures: title registries as time machines. Social and Cultural Geography 20 (3), pp. 283-303. ISSN 1464-9365.

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    For centuries, transferring ownership of land under common law was a slow, complex process requiring the construction of a chain of paper deeds evidencing multiple decades of prior possession. In 1858, colonist Robert Torrens developed a new system for the transfer of land in South Australia, where the land was understood by colonial powers as ‘new’ and without history. With the intention of making land a liquid asset, Torrens’ system of title registration shifted the legal basis of title from a history of prior possession to a singular act of registration. Analysing the structure and effects of title registration, engaging with interdisciplinary work on time, and taking H.G Wells’ iconic time travel novella as a point of departure, I argue that title registries can usefully be understood as time machines. Like the machine H.G Wells imagined, title registries use fiction to facilitate fantastical journeys in which the subject is radically temporally dislocated from the material constraints of history. As with time machines, it tends to be a transcendental white male subject who is most likely to survive this dislocation. While based on fiction, the impacts of title registries are very much real, facilitating humanity’s arrival at racist, dystopic landscapes in the here and now.


    Item Type: Article
    Additional Information: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis, available online at the link above.
    Keyword(s) / Subject(s): time, title registration, land, property, colonialism
    School: School of Law > Law
    Depositing User: Sarah Keenan
    Date Deposited: 19 Apr 2018 08:21
    Last Modified: 15 Feb 2022 12:50


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