Researching Urban Law

Antonia Layard*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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This paper considers the development of urban law. It suggests that urban law is socio-legal in its exploration of law’s role in the production of the city and urban life, drawing on a range of methodologies – socio-legal, comparative and doctrinal analysis – to study the city as a distinctive legal entity. Addressing the question “why urban law?”, the paper considers similar debates in geography and urban policy before developing three arguments for studying urban law: (i) urbanism is a vibrant field of scholarly research; (ii) socio-legal research can take an explicitly normative focus in pursuit of improving urban quality; and (iii) at a city scale we can investigate governance concepts of territory, sovereignty and jurisdiction. One of the difficulties with urban law is finding the right level of analysis, covering sufficient legal and empirical detail whilst also making the city legible at an urban scale. While this tension produces imperfect compromises, accepting the limitations means that we can begin the shared task of developing an intellectual infrastructure, a grammar, for the study of urban law.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1446 - 1463
Number of pages18
JournalGerman Law Journal
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 19 Oct 2020


  • Urban law
  • urban policy
  • urban studies


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