‘There is no space to which legal claims of ownership cannot be made: all of the state’s territory is property. Indeed, modern government under law’s rule comes to be seen as another owner of property. It is often the first property owner –the originator of a particular claims to property –and the last owner—the owner by default when other property claims fail. In between, it appears as a property owner like everyone else, owning discrete parcels of property ownership, it must pay for its acquisitions the same as anyone else. There is no power of eminent domain apart from “just compensation”.
Spatial relations under law appear, therefore, as relations among property holders. This is a relationship that makes no appearance to those outsiders of the state’s law. They see only the political territory of the nation, not an aggregation of particular property interests. Under law, however, the question of where is always a predicate to the question of who: who owns it?. Property claims need not to be absolute; there may be multiple claims of ownership centered on the same subject or place. Other legal relationships to property are built out of this conception of ownership –e.g., questions of responsibility and use.
The metaphor of a grid suggests the mappable character of property. All property can be located in relationship to all other property. This is not however, a relationship of one geographic space to another. Law’s space is not discoverable in the world; it is rather a particular form of discourse among those who share a common set of relieves relating space to persons. Property claims rest on a historical narrative that traces ownership. Thus, to describe space under law we trace title. Titles move simultaneously across a horizontal and vertical dimension. The deed describes one property in terms of its relationship to surrounding properties. The transfer of title sets this synchronous narrative of place in relationship to a diachronic narrative of personal succession.
As with law’s time, these share beliefs about property can support competing and contradictory claims. Just as there is always more than one available precedent, there are often multiple stories of ownership. Any particular narrative is always exhausted before it reaches an incontrovertible foundation. It simply recedes into the past where, eventually, explanations fail. Law’s space is not just a distribution from first principles. A property regime is an ongoing project in which the distribution has always already occurred. The cultural approach to law seeks to expose the structures of thought that make this project possible. It is not concerned with the justice or injustice of property, nor with correct beliefs about particular property claims.’
-Paul W. Kahn, The Cultural Study of Law: reconstructing legal scholarship, págs. 64-65 (University Chicago Press, 1999).