Teaching Property Law and What It Means to Be Human

17 Feb 2012 04:09pm Rose Cuison Villazor 

 

This piece was written for a program held by the American Association of Law Schools Section  on Law and Humanities, "Excavating and Integrating Law and Humanities in the Core Curriculum," on January 5, 2012.

Why do I include films, art and novels in the study of property law? The reason for this, as I argue in this Essay, is quite simple. I contend that deploying these materials in the classroom deepens my students' understanding of property law. The study of property law, as scholars have noted, is essentially what it means "to be human." Indeed, one of the established conceptual views of property is that it is a system of law that "concern relations among people regarding control of valued resources." Through the use of movies, books, and paintings, I am able to delve more deeply into people's lives and relationships and the various factors that influenced their competing claims to property. Specifically, through these cultural media, I emphasize the role that different factors-social, cultural, historical, economic and legal-play in shaping people's interactions with each other regarding things that each contends to be her own. In other words, films, novels, and art, among others, highlight the human stories behind the cases and provide context to the conflicting sense of entitlement to property in the cases that students are learning. This deeper understanding about the legal issues and the forces that led to the property conflict help to prompt more robust discussions about property law.

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