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. My recent empirical work has been funded by several SFC GCRF grants and focuses on cultural heritage and legal pluralism in Zimbabwe. 

  2. Property theory and ethics: I have developed a Levinasian based property theory which is conceptualised 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. Some of this research has been funded through a Leverhulme research fellowship (2019-2021). Together with the expertise I have gained in the area of legal pluralism, my arts-based enquiries around resource frontiers, have also shaped the methodology and focus of the One Ocean Hub. 

  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. This research is funded by an AHRC project on rights of rivers and I will soon be hosting a Marie Curie Fellow working on a common property regime for microbes.

My teaching in the areas of legal theory and environmental justice and ethics is inspired by border pedagogy and epistemologies from the South. 

I am also passionate about research supervision and I am currently the PGR co-director in the law school. 

 

Publications

The pluriversity for stuck humans: a queer, decolonial school eco-pedagogy
McGarry D, Weber L, James A, Kulundu I, Amit S, Temper L, Macintyre T, Shelton R, Pereira T, Chaves C, Kuany S, Turhan E, Cockburn J, Metelerkamp L, Bajpai S, Bengtsson S, Vermeylen Saskia, Lotz-Sisitka H, Khutsoane T
Queer Ecopedagogies Explorations in Nature, Sexuality, and Education (2021) (2021)
https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-65368-2
Space art as a critique of space law
Vermeylen Saskia
Leonardo: Art Science and Technology Vol 54, pp. 115-124 (2021)
https://doi.org/10.1162/leon_a_01990
Recognition of ancestral land claims for indigenous peoples and marginalised communities in Namibia : a case study of the Hai||om litigation
Odendaal Willem, Gilbert Jeremie, Vermeylen Saskia
Neither Here Nor There Indigeneity, Marginalisation and Land Rights in Post-Independence Namibia (2020) (2020)
Canvases as legal maps in native title claims
Vermeylen Saskia
Mapping the Unmappable (2019)
Special issue : Epistemic violence and environmental justice
Vermeylen Saskia
Local Environment : The International Journal of Justice and Sustainability Vol 24, pp. 89-93 (2019)
https://doi.org/10.1080/13549839.2018.1561658
Indigenous peoples, intellectual property rights and personhood
Vermeylen Saskia
Twelfth International Conference on Hunting and Gathering Societies (2018)

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

Exhibition EXTR-Activism Space Law and Afrofuturism
Vermeylen, Saskia (Principal Investigator)
EXTR-Actvism presents artistic positions that challenge the new commercial space race for mineral extractivism. International space law - a product of the Cold War era - is ambiguous in its language as it is unclear if commercial mining, governed through private property rights, is allowed under the Outer Space Treaty (1967). The artworks selected for this exhibition explore the notions of extractivism and neo-colonialism of the commercial space era against the background of African countries developing their own space programme.

The exhibition retells the story of extractivism and space travel from the perspective of Afronauts. The forgotten histories, contested legacies and repressed memories of space travel are explored through a plethora of art practices that seek to blur the boundaries and distinctions between fiction and reality.
01-Jan-2021 - 31-Jan-2021
Guardians of the Rivers" and the future of Earth Law: towards a new Legal, Ecological and Participatory (LEAP) model for Environmental Humanities?
Vermeylen, Saskia (Principal Investigator)
11-Jan-2020 - 11-Jan-2021
MICROB-COM Microbial Commons: Building a legal instrument for farmers rights on agricultural microbial resources H2020 MCSA-IF2019
Vermeylen, Saskia (Principal Investigator)
01-Jan-2020 - 30-Jan-2022
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
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
Utopian Literatures and Space Law
Vermeylen, Saskia (Principal Investigator)
01-Jan-2019 - 30-Jan-2021

More projects