Legal geography investigates the co-constitutive relationship of people, place and law. The cross discipline proceeds from the premise that the legal co-creates the spatial and the social while the social and the spatial co-create the legal. There is reflexivity. Once we accept this premise, however, the hard work begins. How do we work out what 'work' legal provisions and practices are doing, how do their spatial and social settings inform them? And how are different aspects of legal practice creating spaces - how do municipal regulations determine 'amenity', how do banking rules affect the provision of homes and, my favourite, how do property rules and practices govern?
To explore these questions I've been working with Luke Bennett on trying to both understand how legal geographical techniques can be used to explain and explore case studies, in local governance, housing, public space or property. Our essay "Legal Geography: Becoming Spatial Detectives" is available here.
Luke and I have also worked together to put together sessions on Legal Geography at the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) annual conference in London each year. Here is the call for 2013 and here is the call for 2014. We have co-edited a special edition of the International Journal of Law and the Built Environment with papers from the 2013 RGS conference, which is available here.
Lastly, I've been bringing together my work on legal geography and public space as well as an interest in how to 'do' legal geography rather than write about it. In Freedom of Expression and Spatial (Imaginations of) Justice (available here) I highlight the the lack of a spatial understanding of justice in European legal space(s). The chapter focuses a case study from the ECtHR: Raël v Switzerland (2012), moving on from the starting point for legal geography that law, space and society are mutually constituted and reflexive. It draws on the work of Henri Lefebvre and Hannah Arendt to explore how spatio-legal imaginations underpin legal decision-making and that without accepting that decisions of doctrine also draw on the lived, phenomenologies of public space, where spatiality thickens and thins, we cannot truly understand how these decisions are being made.
To put it rather reductively, the key contribution in this paper is to explain how legal geography works from the site up as well as from the text down. It suggests that the legal decision, the space and the social context in which this dispute took place, are all mutually constitutive. All the judgments are spatially inflected, whether expressly (as in the minority dissents) or in an apparently lack of appreciation of spatiality (as in the majority decision, suggesting instead that this is a dispute about the allocation of municipal billboards). The chapter contributes to Europe's Justice Deficit? (Hart, 2015) a collection of essays edited by Dimitry Kochenov, Gráinne de Búrca and Andrew Williams.