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Saskia Vermeylen

Strathclyde Chancellor's Fellow, Law, University of Strathclyde

Saskia Vermeylen is interested in the normative dimension of environmental law and her research focuses specifically on the connection between international environmental law, justice and ethics. Inspired by her empirical fieldwork in Southern Africa, Saskia’s research explores the relationship between global and local law and has introduced a post-colonial and emancipatory understanding of legal pluralism and ‘informal’ law in the following areas: tangible and intangible property rights of indigenous peoples, benefit-sharing agreements and environmental justice, property theory and resource frontiers, Enclosure of tangible and intangible commons

Saskia’s most recent activities include:

1. Studying the meaning of property through the eyes of communities and peoples who have experienced dispossession, leading to the development of a new property theory based on the work of Emmanuel Levinas and Jacques Derrida. Saskia is in the final stages of preparing a manuscript that formulates a bold critique of our current property regime but also reconstructs a new approach towards property through epistemological and ontological explorations and application of nomadic ethics to decentre western and hegemonic understandings of property

2. Contributing to the academic debate in environmental law on the meaning and role of earth jurisprudence and rights of nature. Writing activities focus specifically on establishing a better understanding of what an ontological turn in environmental law might contribute to a material understanding of environmental law in the Anthropocene

3. Embarking on a new research project on the development of new resource frontiers and the role of international environmental law with a specific focus on the ownership challenges that future mining in the deep seabed and outer space will create. As part of this project, links are being established with international partners such as the European Space Agency and British Geological Survey. Central question in this research is to explore and re-interpret the meaning of the ‘common heritage of mankind’ against the background of changing geo-politics, technological developments and legal interpretations in international environmental law
With more than 10 years of empirical research experience in Africa, Saskia has collaborated with diverse sets of international and national (Africa-based) Non-Governmental Organisations such as:

World Vision (Zambia)
Legal Assistance Centre (Namibia)
Working Group of Indigenous Minorities in Southern Africa (Namibia)
Green Living Movement (Zambia)
South African San Institute (South Africa)
She has also worked directly with local communities in Ghana, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Uganda around issues of legal empowerment and development.

Saskia speaks Dutch, French, German and Afrikaans.


  • –present
    Senior Lecturer, Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University