Negotiating landscapes of rights

Project summary

This interdisciplinary project examines the negotiation of rights around common resources by involving archaeologists, lawyers, historians, geographers in a series of case studies taken from around the world. By drawing on a variety of stakeholders including local communities and administrative authorities such as National Parks and County Councils (or their equivalents), it compares present and past and between regions under four key headings:

Landscapes of memory

Stratified memories of place-names, places and actions through which local people built their communities and appropriated their space, as documented in historical testimonies related to conflicts over access rights.

Landscapes of practice

Built up through long-term agro-forestry-pastoral practices whose reconstruction is possible using the methodologies of archaeology and environmental archaeology; urban commons through the heterogenous practices of appropriation and revitalisation of marginal spaces.

Landscapes of rights

Stratified acts of possession through which social relationships are materialised as the result of negotiation between individuals, local communities, seigneurial, colonial, imperial or state powers.

Landscapes as heritage

Common land is often rightly recognised as having natural and cultural value, sometimes without much consideration of its historical dimension. The project investigators want to explore this dimension in particular and involve local communities in this research.

Term: Epiphany 2021


Project fellows

Principal Investigator: Professor Chris Gerrard (Archaeology)
Principal Investigator: Dr Henry Jones (Durham Law School)

Simon Fraser University

Nicholas Blomley, FRSC (BSc Bristol 1983, PhD Bristol 1986) is Professor of Geography at Simon Fraser University, Canada. He is a leading scholar in the interdisciplinary field of critical legal geography, with particular insights into the relationship between space, property and power. His central argument is that law and space are inextricably linked and deeply social and political in both their effect and constitution. In particular, he has focused on the critical geographic analysis of property, developing three main themes: the pluralism of property practices and beliefs, including the significance and prevalence of common property; property as a field of power, such as colonialism; and the performativity of property. From analyzing the use of hedges in 16th century rural England to exclude commoners, to modern day expectations of propriety facing urban homeowners, he promotes a fluid, entangled, and highly political analysis of property.

Inherit, the Institute for Heritage and Sustainable Human Development

Dr Chris Dalglish is a director of Inherit (, the York Archaeological Trust’s Institute for Heritage & Sustainable Human Development.

The Trust ( is a charity that helps people to build better lives through heritage. For 50 years, it has been enabling communities to realise the value of their heritage. It does this through its research, education, volunteering and public engagement programmes, and through its visitor attractions, festivals and exhibitions.

University of Sydney

Dr Nicole Graham (BA (Hons, University Medal), LLB (Hons), PG Cert Higher Ed, PhD) is an Associate Professor at Sydney Law School, The University of Sydney, Australia. Prior to taking up her current position at Sydney Law School, Nicole worked for Macquarie University (2004-2008) and the University of Technology Sydney (2009-2017). She teaches and researches in the fields of property law and theory, and legal geography. Nicole has received three teaching awards for her work teaching property law including the Vice Chancellor’s Outstanding Teacher Award (2007), is recognised as a highly effective first year specialist, and has made significant contributions to educational development in embedding Indigenous laws and perspectives into the law curriculum; and sustainability in legal education. She is a member of the Australian Centre for Climate and Environmental Law, the Australian and New Zealand Legal History Society, the Institute of Australian Geographers, the Management Committee of Law & Society Association of Australia and New Zealand, and is Chair of the its Prizes Sub-Committee).

The Catholic University of America

Dr Sandra Scham’s work has placed her at the juncture of archaeology with some of the most complex issues in the modern Middle East. She has had a wide-ranging career working both in academia and government and is a recognized expert on the importance of cultural heritage to modern subaltern and indigenous peoples. She is currently an Adjunct Associate Professor of Anthropology at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC and a Senior Consulting Advisor on program evaluation, Middle East affairs, gender equality and narratives of extremism with the United States Department of State and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Università di Genova

Anna Maria Stagno is a post-medieval and rural archaeologist. She has done research as Senior Research Fellow at the University of Durham (2018), as Marie Curie IE Fellow at the University of the Basque Country (2014-2017) with the project ARCHIMEDE on the archaeology of commons in southern Europe, and as associate researcher at the Laboratory of History of the Alps, of the University of Italian Switzerland (2014-2016). Since September 2019, she has been nominated Italian Representative in the Committee of the Ruralia Association (Jean-Marie Pesez Conferences on Medieval Rural Archaeology). She has been awarded with the Strengthening the excellence Award, by the Università di Genova (June 2019). PhD in Historical Geography (2009), at the Università di Genova (with a dissertation on rural archaeology), she is the PI of the ERC Stg 2019 project ANTIGONE – Archaeology of sharing practices. The marginalisation of European mountains (18th–21st), which will start on November 2020 at Laboratory of Environmental Archaeology and History of the University of Genoa. There, since the a.a. 2020/2021 she will be professor in Rural and Landscape Archaeology, at the School of Humanities, Department of Antiquity, Philosophy and History at the Università di Genova.