Dr Saskia Vermeylen

Strathclyde Chancellor's Fellow

Law

Personal statement

I am a socio-legal property scholar contributing to related but distinctive research areas:

  1. Cultural property: This work has been mainly developed around legal anthropology and I have developed new understandings of legal pluralism and customary law of indigenous peoples in the area of cultural property. I have conducted for over 15 years multi-site ethnography in 4 Southern African countries across 6 different San language groups.

  2. Property theory and ethics: I have developed a Levinasian based property theory which I have conceptualise as property as generosity. In this work, I engage extensively with continental philosophy, besides Levinas, I also draw upon Jacques Derrida. Methodologically, I use phenomenology through literary studies with a strong focus on postcolonial literature which I apply to different concepts of property.

  3. Property frontiers: I critique the extension of liberal property discourses into new and accelerated property regimes with a specific focus on outer space and the common heritage principle. This research is methodologically strongly embedded in literary studies with a very strong focus on AfricanFUTURISM, ecocriticism and science fiction. Increasingly this work also extends to visual and performative art, including curating, commissioning and developing site-specific arts.

  4. Materialities of property: This body of work engages methodologically with feminist posthumanism, eco-philosophy and speculative philosophy and I apply this to new property regimes in the area of microbes, deep seabed and fugitive natural resources. 

Publications

Materiality and the ontological turn in the anthropocene : establishing a dialogue between law, anthropology and eco-philosophy
Vermeylen Saskia
Environmental Law and Governance for the Anthropocene (2017) (2017)
A human right to science? Precarious labor and basic rights in science and bioprospecting
Neimark Benjamin D, Vermeylen Saskia
Annals of the Association of American Geographers Vol 107, pp. 167-182 (2017)
https://doi.org/10.1080/24694452.2016.1218749
An alternative ethics for research : Levinas and the unheard voices and unseen faces
Vermeylen Saskia, Clark Gordon
International Journal of Social Research Methodology (2016)
https://doi.org/10.1080/13645579.2016.1220117
Comparative environmental law and orientalism : reading beyond the 'text' of traditional knowledge protection
Vermeylen Saskia
Review of European Community and International Environmental Law Vol 24, pp. 304-317 (2015)
https://doi.org/10.1111/reel.12135
Can the biofuel crop, Jatropha curcas, be used as a locally-grown botanical pesticide? : a lab and field study in Zambia
Wilson Ken, Maloney Kyran, Zulu Donald, Mutamba Emmanuel, Vermeylen Saskia
Proceedings of The First International Conference on Pesticidal Plants (2013) (2013)
Shifting cultivation and fire policy: insights from the Brazilian Amazon
Carmenta Rachel, Vermeylen Saskia, Parry Luke, Barlow Jos
Human Ecology Vol 41, pp. 603-614 (2013)
https://doi.org/10.1007/s10745-013-9600-1

More publications

Professional activities

Simon Makuvaza
Host
6/2019
Property Theory and Nomadic Thinking
Speaker
25/7/2018
Space Law and Science Fiction Literature
Speaker
27/5/2018
Human Rights and Indigenous Peoples
Speaker
10/5/2018
Space Law
Speaker
29/10/2017
XVI Biennial IASC-Conference: Practising the Commons: From recognition to re-enclosure of the commons: examining impacts, challenges and opportunities of formal legal recognition of the commons
Participant
14/7/2017

More professional activities

Projects

Rock art and cultural heritage law in Zimbabwe
Vermeylen, Saskia (Principal Investigator)
This research addresses the San’s human right to access land and develop inclusive economic activities through tourism in Hwange national park in Zimbabwe. The project focuses specifically on recording and using cultural heritage as evidence of ancestral settlement and inclusive economic development in the national parks. The San have been exposed to land evictions dating back 2000 years ago when agriculturalists displaced them. Dispossession continued in the colonial period when their lands were appropriated to create national parks and private farms for colonial administrators. Unfortunately, evictions still exist after independence when new economic developments are being pursued such as tourism and mining.This research addresses the San’s human right to access land and develop inclusive economic activities through tourism in two national parks: Hwange in Zimbabwe and Chobe in Botswana. The project focuses specifically on recording and using cultural heritage as evidence of ancestral settlement and inclusive economic development in the national parks. The San have been exposed to land evictions dating back 2000 years ago when agriculturalists displaced them. Dispossession continued in the colonial period when their lands were appropriated to create national parks and private farms for colonial administrators. Unfortunately, evictions still exist after independence when new economic developments are being pursued such as tourism and mining. Combining law, archaeology and tourism, this project seeks to document the San’s cultural heritage in the national parks as evidence to support land claims and inclusive tourism.
01-Jan-2019 - 31-Jan-2020
Utopian Literatures and Space Law
Vermeylen, Saskia (Principal Investigator)
01-Jan-2019 - 30-Jan-2021
Global Challenges Research Fund Visiting Fellowship 2018-2019: Cultural heritage and land rights
Vermeylen, Saskia (Principal Investigator)
Cultural tourism has been highlighted as one of the most important development opportunities for Africa. A recent World Bank Report stated that the rich intangible cultural heritage of Sub-Saharan Africa presents a substantial opportunity for tourism growth. Increasingly, cultural tourism can be used as a pathway for poverty alleviation, inclusive growth and place-based socio-economic development. Sustainable cultural tourism has the scope to reach the most marginalized communities who often live in remote rural areas where apart from tourism no other substantial opportunities exist for developing an inclusive business growth model. However, the opportunities that cultural tourism may offer are currently underexplored, because priority was given to developing wildlife tourism and a lack of understanding of the significance and economic potential of cultural heritage. Cultural heritage management has been mainly a by-product of colonialism, and the colonial scientific approach towards cultural heritage management continued after de-colonisation resulting in the alienation of local communities from their own cultural heritage. For local communities to benefit from the nexus tourism-development, changes need to be made in the regulation and management of cultural heritage. This project will contribute directly to this process by investigating how an intimate understanding of traditional custodianship can contribute to more sustainable, effective and inclusive cultural heritage management practices. This will require the adoption of a legal framework that is based on legal pluralism. A combination of local, national and international cultural heritage management laws and regulations can provide a robust, inclusive and just legal framework as part of an increasing role culture can play in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, specifically in the areas: of access to land and natural resources (SDGs 1, 2, 6, 8, 15) and recognition of human rights of indigenous peoples (SDGs 1, 4, 8, 10 and 16).
01-Jan-2019 - 31-Jan-2019
GCRF One Ocean Hub
Morgera, Elisa (Principal Investigator) Baum, Thomas (Co-investigator) Cathcart, Alison (Co-investigator) Clark, Bryan (Co-investigator) Da Lomba, Sylvie (Co-investigator) Heath, Mike (Co-investigator) Revie, Matthew (Co-investigator) Sindico, Francesco (Co-investigator) Switzer, Stephanie (Co-investigator) Vermeylen, Saskia (Co-investigator) Webster, Elaine (Co-investigator)
13-Jan-2019 - 12-Jan-2024
Uncanny Lore: From resistance to re-existance - legal empowerment, reclaiming heritage, ancestral land & justice in Southern Africa
Vermeylen, Saskia (Principal Investigator)
The project investigates how a holistic understanding of indigenous peoples’ cultural practices can legally empower them to secure and protect access to ancestral land and preserve cultural heritage in order to improve indigenous peoples’ livelihoods. Legal empowerment and the rule of law, adjusted to indigenous peoples’ needs, can provide a robust and inclusive legal framework as part of the recognition that culture can play an important role in the achievement of dignity, secure access to land and natural resources and recognition of human rights of indigenous peoples. The project feeds into a wider research programme that provides evidence to inform changes in national legislation to reform cultural heritage management, access to ancestral land and rights of nature. The longer term project also explores the legal reform that is needed so marginalised communities can voice their concerns in Courts and mobilise their culture, beliefs and worldviews as a source of law. The wider ethos of this project is to boost local capacity so indigenous communities can use effectively the rule of law to protect and preserve their ancestral land and cultural heritage. The project also strives to enhance health and welfare of indigenous peoples through a greater understanding of indigenous health practices and applications of traditional healing. This is part of a wider quest to decolonise law and legal practices.
20-Jan-2018 - 24-Jan-2018
Inclusive tourism in the city: how urban tourism can benefit marginalised and vulnerable communities
Baum, Thomas (Principal Investigator) Tomazos, Konstantinos (Co-investigator) Rogerson, Robert (Co-investigator) Vermeylen, Saskia (Co-investigator) Dimitrijevic, Branka (Co-investigator) Horgan, Donagh (Co-investigator)
Multi-disciplinary research-informing workshop, funded through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) in collaboration with the University of the Philippines Diliman to engage with tourism from a social and economic inclusion perspective in the context of the contemporary city. Involved engagement with this theme from multiple perspectives including gender, economic, employment, human rights, urban planning, architecture, law and anthropology.
01-Jan-2018 - 31-Jan-2018

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