Not long ago I heard a presentation that grounded an argument for uniformity in property law on the premise that property is fixed, certain, predictable. The claim seemed out of place, at least with respect to some property. Jumping immediately to mind was an overseas context – the link between land ousters and armed conflict explored in a 2011 Darfur report that I was honored to help produce. A novel published a few months ago brought the question closer to home.
Released in September 2012, The Cutting Season is the 2d novel by the Houston-born and L.A.-based author Attica Locke. On the surface it’s a murder mystery that plays out on an antebellum Louisiana plantation managed by Caren Gray, a Tulane Law dropout whose mother had been the plantation family’s cook. At a deeper level, it’s an exploration of identity – that of Gray, of course, but also of the land on which she lives. Little more should be said lest the story be spoiled. Read it, and as you do, keep in mind Article 17 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees that “[e]veryone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others,” and that “[n]o one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.”