Geography, Law and the Emotions of Property: Property Enactment on Norwegian Smallholdings
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- Institutt for geografi 
This PhD study addresses property enactment on Norwegian smallholdings. It argues that socio-spatial relationships between people and property might be more important in owners’ decision-making than often assumed in legal arrangements. The study takes the recent amendments to the Norwegian Concession Act as its entry point. Prior to these amendments, carried out in two stages in 2001 and 2003 respectively, only owners of properties with less than 0.5 ha were free to sell their properties at market price, whereas today, owners of properties of less than 10 ha are able to do so, on condition that no more than 2 ha are fully cultivated. The change in the area limit was part of the policy to reduce the population decrease in rural areas of Norway: it was assumed that eliminating price control on these properties would encourage owners who used their smallholdings as second homes or left them empty to sell to someone who was interested in living there permanently. The difference between the ‘estimated agricultural value’ and the market price may be huge, especially in certain (central) parts of the country where there is a high demand for such properties. Hence, as a result of these legal amendments the potential economic profit for property owners has increased significantly in most cases. However, it appears that many property owners are not willing to sell, and those who do sell seem to do so very reluctantly. The present study investigates reasons for this ‘unwillingness’ to sell smallholdings. In much contemporary research in geography, issues of property and ownership have been given relatively little attention as the signification of these concepts often seems to be taken for granted. However, within the realm of legal geography, studies of property have been received with increasing interest; in a recent article in Progress in Human Geography Nicholas Blomley urged geographers to take property seriously: ‘there are real costs in forgetting property, for property has not forgotten us’. Norwegian smallholdings have certainly ‘not forgotten us’, since they are vital parts of rural landscapes and they play significant demographic roles for many local communities. The present study seeks to respond to Blomley’s request, and takes property seriously by examining property enactment on Norwegian smallholdings. In line with much (critical) legal geography literature, the study questions the hegemonic liberal view of ownership which assumes objectified properties with a single owner enacting his or her property based on economic rationality. Whilst the amendments to the Concession Act are based on a liberal view of ownership, the present study argues that owners have a propensity to enact their properties according to a much more complex, relational and contextually defined view of ownership evoked by the ‘emotions of property’. The empirical investigation examines properties affected by the amendments to the Concession Act, and a qualitative study has been carried out among owners and former owners of these properties. Three journal articles presented in Part II are written based on this empirical investigation. The study has identified kinship (Article 1) and attachment to home (Article 2) as key factors in property owners’ decision-making. Kinship and a sense of home are closely related to property, and the two articles demonstrate that kinship and home also shape property. The third article conveys some of the emotional dilemmas which owners face in their property enactment, and focuses in particular on emotional dilemmas arising as a result of a conversion of permanent homes into second homes. The overall argument of the study is that property is about social and emotional relations with regard to a physical object, and not only about one-to-one relations between one owner and her or his property. Due to the emotional and social aspects of property, owners of Norwegian smallholdings tend not to be influenced by the amendments to the Concession Act to the same degree as expected by the authorities. For this reason, the study thus examines the tensions between the formally represented property (as a legal object) and the lived spaces of Norwegian smallholdings, and it demonstrates significant incoherencies between how property is represented in the recent amendments of the Concession Act and how property is actually ‘lived’ by the owners. A key lesson from this PhD project pertaining to the legal geographies of Norwegian smallholdings is that the degree of coherence between formally represented and lived spaces of property is vital for the successfulness of policy instruments designed to influence enactments of property.
Has partsFlemsæter, Frode; Setten, G. Holding property in trust: Kinship, law and property enactment on Norwegian smallholdings. Environment and planning A. (ISSN 0308-518X). 41(9): 2267-2284, 2009. 10.1068/a41135.
Flemsæter, Frode. From “Home” to “Second Home”: Emotional Dilemmas on Norwegian Smallholdings . Scandinavian Journal of Hospitality and Tourism. (ISSN 1502-2250). 9(4): 406-423, 2009. 10.1080/15022250903374455.