Sarah Keenan, Birkbeck College, has published Smoke, Curtains and Mirrors: The Production of Race Through Time and Title Registration, in the 2017 volume for Law and Critique. Here is the abstract.
This article analyses the temporal effects of title registration and their rela- tionship to race. It traces the move away from the retrospection of pre-registry common law conveyancing and toward the dynamic, future-oriented Torrens title registration sys- tem. The Torrens system, developed in early colonial Australia, enabled the production of ‘clean’, fresh titles that were independent of their predecessors. Through a process praised by legal commentators for ‘curing’ titles of their pasts, this system produces inde- feasible titles behind its distinctive ‘curtain’ and ‘mirror’, which function similarly to magi- cians’ smoke and mirrors by blocking particular realities from view. In the case of title reg- istries, those realities are particular histories of and relationships with land, which will not be protected by property law and are thus made precarious. Building on interdisciplinary work which theorises time as a social tool, I argue that Torrens title registration produces a temporal order which enables land market coordination by rendering some relationships with land temporary and making others indefeasible. This ordering of relationships with
land in turn has consequences for the human subjects who have those relationships, cut- ting futures short for some and guaranteeing permanence to others. Engaging with Renisa Mawani and other critical race theorists, I argue that the categories produced by Torrens title registration systems materialise as race.
The article is available through Academia.edu.