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Trespassing on the Law: Critical legal engineering as a strategy for action research

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jats:titleAbstract</jats:title>jats:pThis paper proposes critical legal engineering (CLE) as a new methodology for legal‐geographic action research. While legal geography is on the rise, geographers rarely participate in legal or judicial process, and when they do – for example, as court expert witnesses – they merely respond to the pre‐established agendas of the legal system. I argue that legal geographers’ knowledge on the nature of law and its relations with society is a source of power that could allow them to set legal agendas and pluralise legal discussions. CLE assumes that legal geographers can put forward technical legal arguments, thus using law’s own tools to implement normative agendas implied in critical research. However, CLE demands a dialectical attitude that preserves the contradiction between political ends and legal technology – while pursuing both of them at the same time. As I show, CLE can realise critical agendas in three ways. First, it co‐opts the legitimacy provided by the legal system, lending it to the agendas that are otherwise perceived as “too radical.” Second, elevated by the law these radical agendas may gain greater power to influence political‐economic realities even before the legal outcomes are decided. Finally, CLE draws out of “technical” legal discussions into the heat of the public debate, thus politicising the law. Having developed this methodological proposition in the course of my research on urban movements, I illustrate it with the strategy of Berlin's campaign Deutsche Wohnen & Co. Enteignen (DWE), which has crafted a legal argumentation based on Article 15 of the German Constitution to pursue re‐municipalisation (or de‐privatisation) of housing.</jats:p>



action research, Berlin, housing, legal geography, re&#8208, municipalisation, scholar&#8208, activism

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Narodowe Centrum Nauki (2019/35/D/HS6/03880)