Saskia Vermeylen is a Senior Lecturer in the Lancaster Environment Centre.
With a background in the humanities (law, international relations and history) Saskia’s main research interest focuses upon property theory from a critical socio-legal and philosophical perspective. For her PhD research she did extensive fieldwork in Southern Africa and has ever since developed a great love and interest for African cultures and history which she incorporates in her work by injecting a post-colonial theoretical lens in her work on land rights in Southern Africa and intellectual property rights over African cultures and traditional knowledges.
Saskia is rounding off a long-term research interest in benefit sharing and justice and she is preparing a manuscript that gives an overview of the research she has done for more than 10 years on the Hoodia benefit sharing agreement from a critical legal and legal-anthropological perspective. The work she has published on justice and indigenous peoples explores the usefulness of legal pluralism and the recognition of customary law in praxis and theory. This body of work is closely linked to her other publications on property rights and the protection of indigenous peoples’ tangible and intangible property.
Saskia is finishing a manuscript – God’s property: Critical Perspectives on Property and Theories of Justice - wherein she explores the meaning of excludability, exclusiveness and recognition in property theory throughout history. Through a critical engagement with the work of Lévinas and Derrida, she theorises what it means not to have property and whether a more ethical property regime can be developed through the notions of alterity and hospitality. Building upon her work on terrestrial frontiers, she is now also researching astro-legal discourses of extra-terrestrial frontiers through a comparative analysis of the political ideologies justifying historical settlement claims on earth and contemporary discourses of Lunar and Martian permanent settlement claims.
This links to the published research Saskia has done in the area of ownership rights of energy resources such as air, wind and sun which is part of a wider research interest in enclosures of the commons and the legal character of natural resources in the global commons such as oceanic and celestial commons. Currently, she is analysing the debate about the meaning of the common heritage principle in the Moon Agreement, Outer Space Treaty and UNCLOS III against the background of an increased commercial interest in deep sea bed and outer space mining but also the exploitation of the subsurface for heat, fluids, gasses and storage space.
Saskia is the theme leader for the Society and Environment Research Group in LEC bringing together a wide range of colleagues working in the humanities and social sciences.
Saskia’s teaching contributes to the human geography curriculum in LEC and builds upon her research interests and expertise in colonial and post-colonial history and African cultures.