Meghan L. Morris
Meghan L. Morris
Assistant Professor of Law, College of Law | Affiliate Faculty, Department of Anthropology
Professor Morris teaches property, international law, and environmental law. Her scholarship examines the relationship between property and conflict at different scales, from the ways people use property rules in war, peacemaking, and paramilitary activity to how legal doctrines such as possession, restitution, and good faith figure centrally in private land disputes. She draws on extensive ethnographic fieldwork, property law, and property theory to rethink property and its role in social life.
Her book manuscript, Property in the Shadow of Post-Conflict Colombia, is an ethnography of property in the space of ambiguity between peace and war. The manuscript examines two state projects: a national land restitution program designed to return and title rural land to displaced people who lost it in Colombia’s civil war, and a municipal infrastructure project in Medellín that aspired to “turn the page on violence” through green, equitable urban planning. It analyzes the ways that property becomes both a critical element of and an obstacle to peace through these programs, against the backdrop of the peace talks between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas. While debates around transitional justice often privilege the penal, the book argues that property’s intimate relationship to other concepts – such as race, territory, violence, speculation, and risk – renders it a generative legal form in war and peace, allowing its reordering to effect broad social, environmental, and political transformation.
Morris is currently working on a new book project, This Land is My Land: Property, Paramilitarism, and the American Dream, which examines the relationship between property and paramilitarism. It explores how historical movements were rooted in notions of property as an American founding ideal, and shaped property as a legal regime and American cultural imaginary. It analyzes the legacies of this for contemporary conflicts over public lands, racial justice, and immigration. Morris also has published on the ways that property structures citizen-state relations; property and debt; the legal temporality of speculation; and the relationship between property and soil. Her work in progress includes scholarship intervening in the debate around property as the “law of things,” a manuscript on paramilitary property, an intellectual history of anthropology in property theory, and a manuscript on property and risk.
Morris has work published or forthcoming in Cultural Anthropology, American Anthropologist, Alabama Law Review, and the Revista Colombiana de Antropología. Her research has received support from the National Science Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, and the Inter-American Foundation. She is a 2021 recipient of the University Research Council Faculty Scholars Research Award at the University of Cincinnati and of the College of Law’s Goldman Prize for Excellence in Teaching.
Professor Morris holds a J.D. cum laude from Harvard Law School, a Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Chicago, a M.A. in Law and Diplomacy with a focus on international environment and resource policy from The Fletcher School at Tufts University, and a B.S. in Policy Analysis and Management from Cornell University. Prior to joining the University of Cincinnati, Morris was the ABF/NSF Postdoctoral Fellow in Law and Inequality at the American Bar Foundation and a senior researcher at the Bogotá-based Center for Law, Justice and Society (Dejusticia). She has also worked in human rights and environmental advocacy in the United States, South Africa, and Latin America.
Ph.D., University of Chicago
J.D., Harvard Law School
M.A.L.D., The Fletcher School at Tufts University
B.S., Cornell University
Areas of Interest
- International Law
- Legal Anthropology
- Public International Law
- Environmental Law
(* indicates peer review)
“Property’s Relations: Tracing Anthropology in Property Theory.” Alabama Law Review (forthcoming 2022).
“Property in Transition: Legal Fantasies, Land ‘Reforms,’ and Contracting Peace in Colombia.” American Anthropologist (Forthcoming 2022).*
“The Properties of Debt: Reciprocity, Precarity, and Social Obligation in Medellín.” In Propiedad sobre la tierra en Colombia: viejos y nuevos dilemas sobre la distribución (Property over Land in Colombia: Old and New Dilemmas over Distribution) (Helena Alviar García and Tatiana Alfonso Sierra, eds.) Bogotá: Universidad de los Andes (Forthcoming 2021).*
“Ground Fictions: Soil, Property, and Markets in the Colombian Conflict.” In Land Fictions: The Commodification of Land in City and Country (D. Asher Ghertner and Robert W. Lake, eds.). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press (2021).
(ed., with Jessica Corredor Villamil) Pandemic Inequality: Civil Society Narratives from the Global South. Bogotá: Center for the Study of Law, Justice and Society (Dejusticia). Spanish edition: La desigualdad pandémica: narrativas de la sociedad civil desde el Sur Global (2020).
“Speculative Fields: Property in the Shadow of Post-Conflict Colombia.” Cultural Anthropology 34(4): 580-606 (2019).*
(ed., with César Rodríguez-Garavito) Justice through Transitions: Conflict, Peacemaking, and Human Rights in the Global South. Bogotá: Center for the Study of Law, Justice and Society, Dejusticia. Spanish edition: Hacer justicia en tiempos de transición: El papel del activismo y las instituciones en el fortalecimiento democrático. Buenos Aires: Siglo Veintiuno Editores (2018).
(with César Rodríguez-Garavito) “Writing Justice through Transitions.” In Justice through Transitions: Conflict, Peacemaking, and Human Rights in the Global South (César Rodríguez-Garavito and Meghan L. Morris, eds.). Pp. 10-17. Bogotá: Center for the Study of Law, Justice and Society, Dejusticia. Spanish edition: “Escribir la justicia a través de las transiciones.” In Hacer justicia en tiempos de transición: El papel del activismo y las instituciones en el fortalecimiento democrático (César Rodríguez Garavito and Meghan L. Morris, eds.). Pp. 13-19. Buenos Aires: Siglo Veintiuno Editores (2018).
“La cuestión de la tierra: el despojo y la posesión en el trabajo etnográfico” (“The Question of Land: Dispossession and Possession in Ethnographic Inquiry”). Revista Colombiana de Antropología (Colombian Journal of Anthropology) 53(1): 27-57 (2017).*
“Property in the Shadow of the ‘Post-Conflict.’” (“La propiedad en la sombra del ‘posconflicto.’”) Fieldsights - Hot Spots, Cultural Anthropology Online (2015).
“Situated Storytelling: Vision in the Writing of Law and Justice.” In Human Rights in Minefields: Extractive Economies, Environmental Conflicts, and Social Justice in the Global South (César Rodríguez-Garavito, ed). Pp. 370-377. Bogotá: Center for the Study of Law, Justice and Society, Dejusticia. Spanish edition: “Historias situadas. La perspectiva en la escritura del derecho y la justicia.” In Extractivismo versus derechos humanos: Crónicas de los nuevos campos minados en el Sur Global (César Rodríguez Garavito, ed.). Pp. 371-378. Buenos Aires: Siglo Veintiuno Editores (2015).
(with César Rodríguez Garavito, Natalia Orduz Salinas, and Paula Buriticá) “La consulta previa a pueblos indígenas: Los estándares del derecho internacional” (“Prior Consultation of Indigenous Peoples: International Law Standards”). Bogotá: Universidad de los Andes (2010).
Works in Progress
Property in the Shadow of Post-Conflict Colombia (Book manuscript).*
“Paramilitary Property” (Law review article manuscript in preparation).
“That Was No Landslide: Risky Soil, Territorial Order, and the Buried Truth in Medellín” (Article manuscript in preparation for peer-reviewed journal).*
“Property and the Social Life of Things” (Law review article manuscript).