Saskia Vermeylen


  • United Kingdom

Personal profile

Personal Statement

I am a socio-legal property scholar contributing to related but distinctive research areas:

  1. Cultural property: This work has been mainly developed around legal anthropology and I have developed new understandings of legal pluralism and customary law of indigenous peoples in the area of cultural property. I have conducted for over 15 years multi-site ethnography in 4 Southern African countries across 6 different San language groups. My recent empirical work has been funded by several SFC GCRF grants and focuses on cultural heritage and legal pluralism in Zimbabwe. 

  2. Property theory and ethics: I have developed a Levinasian based property theory which is conceptualised as property as generosity. In this work, I engage extensively with continental philosophy, besides Levinas, I also draw upon Jacques Derrida. Methodologically, I use phenomenology through literary studies with a strong focus on postcolonial literature which I apply to different concepts of property.

  3. Property frontiers: I critique the extension of liberal property discourses into new and accelerated property regimes with a specific focus on outer space and the common heritage principle. This research is methodologically strongly embedded in literary studies with a very strong focus on AfricanFUTURISM, ecocriticism and science fiction. Increasingly this work also extends to visual and performative art, including curating, commissioning and developing site-specific arts. Some of this research has been funded through a Leverhulme research fellowship (2019-2021). Together with the expertise I have gained in the area of legal pluralism, my arts-based enquiries around resource frontiers, have also shaped the methodology and focus of the One Ocean Hub. 

  4. Materialities of property: This body of work engages methodologically with feminist posthumanism, eco-philosophy and speculative philosophy and I apply this to new property regimes in the area of microbes, deep seabed and fugitive natural resources. This research is funded by an AHRC project on rights of rivers and I will soon be hosting a Marie Curie Fellow working on a common property regime for microbes.

My teaching in the areas of legal theory and environmental justice and ethics is inspired by border pedagogy and epistemologies from the South. 

I am also passionate about research supervision and I am currently the PGR co-director in the law school. 


Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 1 - No Poverty
  • SDG 2 - Zero Hunger
  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

External positions

Visiting Fellow, Rhodes University

1 Sept 2020 → …

Visiting Scholar, University of Edinburgh

1 Sept 201423 Dec 2014

Visiting scholar, University of California, Berkeley

15 Aug 201323 Dec 2013


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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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