Property as the Law of Institutional Artefacts

Dr Kate Falconer

Time and date: Thursday 27 April, 2023, 1-2pm (Brisbane Time)

Location: Law School Board Room (W353), Level 3, Forgan Smith Building, The University of Queensland, St Lucia
and via Zoom:


In recent decades, property’s ‘new essentialism’ has reminded us that property law is, in fact, the law of things. But this newly revived brand of property law theory has so far failed to fully explain the exact nature of the ‘thing’ that is at the centre of each and every property right. Using insights from the intersection of social ontology and the philosophy of material culture, this paper argues that the ‘thing’ at the centre of property rights is not in fact (or rather, not just) the ‘thing’ itself, but rather an institutional rendering of that object into an institutional artefact.

This insight fills three gaps in existing essentialist understandings of property rights. First, it allows for a greater understanding of the scope of uses available to a purported property right holder. Second, it provides an answer to a problem that to date remains only incompletely addressed: the question of external restrictions placed on property rights, and the extent to which they can extend without extinguishing that right’s proprietary nature entirely. And third, it explains exactly why a property right is a right in rem mediated by an impersonal ‘thing’.

About the Speaker

Profile photo of Dr Kate Falconer standing in UQ's Great CourtKate Falconer is a Lecturer at the TC Beirne School of Law. Her research interests lie in the law of the dead and bodily disposal, and the ways in which the private law interacts with death, the dead, and dead bodies. She is particularly interested in the impacts and implications of new death technologies both for private law and society more broadly. She is the Secretary of the Australian Death Studies Society. Her PhD, which focused on possessory rights and interests in the deceased human body and the implications of these interests for property theory, was awarded by the Australian National University in 2020. She is currently leading a project on Life and Death in Private Law. She holds an LLM in US Law from Washington University in St Louis, as well as an LLB with Honours and an undergraduate degree in archaeology from the University of Queensland. She currently teaches Trusts and Equity.

About Australian Centre for Private Law Events

The mission of the ​Australian Centre for Private Law is to foster the development and understanding of the private law through advanced theoretical, doctrinal, empirical and historical research, and the dissemination of that research through education and professional outreach. By supporting the work of its Fellows, the ACPL seeks to promote research in all areas of private law and to establish itself as a research centre of national and international importance. The core initiatives of ACPL are:

Research: To advance a deeper understanding of the structure, principles and policies of the private law through advanced theoretical, comparative, and empirical analysis.

Education: To promote, facilitate and disseminate the results of that research for the benefit of Australia’s social and economic fabric.

Professional Outreach: To engage the judiciary and members of the legal profession in discussion about the values, goals and methods of private law and the respective roles of the judiciary, the legal profession and the academy in the interpretation and reform of private law.

The ACPL embraces all branches of private law, including the law of contract, torts, trusts, equity, property, unjust enrichment, including theoretical and jurisprudential dimensions and contextual applications thereof.


And via Zoom
Law School Board Room (W353), Level 3, Forgan Smith Building, The University of Queensland, St Lucia