Lucy Finchett-Maddock: ‘Holes, Property and the A-Legal Vacuum’


What defines scale in the void? What is the metric of emptiness? What is the measure of nothingness? (Barad, 2012: 5)

In ‘Protest, Property and the Commons:  Performances of Law and Resistance’  (2016), I argue that squatters’ rights offer us an example of this relative no-man’s land of law, contained and constituted by borders of state law that indicate an entrance point for resistance.  This is state law’s own creation and its own living example of a right to resistance, living within the void and vacuum of law and property.

Denoting an a-legal vacuum propounds a description of a-legality that agrees with Lindahl’s account of a-legal behavior as that of an act that “challenges the very distinction between legality and illegality, as drawn by a political community” (Lindahl, 2008). Using the term vacuum, I take from Karen Barad’s post-humanist work where she relays a discussion of a vacuum in terms of both a scientific understanding of the presence of matter within a void, combined with a post-structuralist account of contingent materialism and performativity. This vacuum can account for the contingency of law within a space that is seemingly empty of both, and yet mutually defined and constituted at the same time.

What does this tell us about the integral role of holes and absences in law, and in property?  Are holes the same as vacuums or are they different?  Why do we need absences in law and property, and how do squatters’ rights exemplify this?  The piece, with reference to the work of the Kyoto School philosopher Nishida Kitarō’s work on nothingness, hopes to discuss all of these questions in order to configure an ontology of law’s holes, law’s voids.

Works cited:

Barad, K., 2012. What is the Measure of Nothingness? Infinity, Virtuality, Justice. 100 Notes, Museum Fridericianum Verantsaltungs-GmBH, Ostfildern, Hatje-Cantz Verlag.

Finchett-Maddock, L. 2012. Protest, Property and the Commons:  Performances of Law and Resistance. Routledge.

Lindahl, H., 2008. Border Crossings by Immigrants: Legality, Illegality and A-legality, Res Publica, 14:117–135.

Bio: Lucy Finchett-Maddock is a Lecturer in Law, University of Sussex. Lucy’s work predominantly focuses on the intersection of property within law and resistance, interrogating the spatio-temporality and aesthetics of formal and informal laws, property (squatting and housing), commons and protest.  She is the author of a monograph Protest, Property and the Commons:  Performances of Law and Resistance (Routledge, 2016). Her work also looks to broader questions around the intersection of art and law, resistance, legal and illegal understandings of art, property, aesthetics and politics. She is currently developing an ‘Art/Law Network’ (in collaboration with Sussex’s Art and Law Research Cluster), where artists, activists, lawyers, practitioners and other such agitators can share their work and ideas, create art projects on law; law projects on art; collaborate on methodological and pedagogical approaches to law, through art; art, through law – and anything else in between.

The featured image is entitled Origins, a painting by Lucy Finchett-Maddock. She features her work on her blog on art, law and writing yeoldfinch.