There is currently in international law an overstatement of the tie between property and identity. International conventions have folded property into a set of immutable human rights. There needs to be greater flexibility and nuance in this perspective. In this paper we identify two approaches to property rights: the first, which argues that property and identity are necessarily bundled together and considers property to be a human right; and the second which understands them as explicitly separate and views property as a commodity. Empirically, we observe a transition between these two competing ideas. We posit that this transition happens voluntarily, with market development, or involuntarily through displacement due to conflict and disaster. The relationship between property and identity changes based on time, circumstance and individual choice. Rights-based norms regarding property, and more specifically the restitution of property after displacement, need to be sufficiently flexible to encompass changes in identity and context.

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Post-print Article

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Publisher Statement

Copyright © 2013 Routledge.

The definitive version is available at:

DOI: 10.1080/14754835.2013.784662

Full Citation:
Joireman, Sandra F., and Jason Brown. "Property: Human Right or Commodity?" Journal of Human Rights 12, no. 2 (2013): 165-179. doi:10.1080/14754835.2013.784662.