Professor Frank Upham Presents New Research on China and Japan at Centre for Asian Legal Studies


Professor Frank Upham (New York University School of Law)

The Centre for Asian Legal Studies (CALS) at NUS Law hosted Professor Frank Upham (New York University School of Law), who delivered two seminars to members of the legal community and students.

The first seminar, titled “The Great Property Fallacy”, was held on 25 February 2019. The lecture was followed by a question and answer session chaired by Associate Professor Chen Weitseng (Deputy Director, CALS)

Professor Upham presented the main points of his latest book, The Great Property Fallacy: Theory, Reality, and Growth in Developing Countries. Specifically, he outlined the role of law in increasing economic growth rapidly by legitimising the creative destruction of property rights. Law, he said, does what the “Coase theorem” does, not by securing property rights, but by legitimising their destruction and the economy that they maintained (through either judicial action or “fraud”) in order to create a new set of more productive property rights. He made his point by discussing two case studies: the first is Sanderson v. Pennsylvania Coal Company; the second Contemporary Cambodia.

The second seminar, titled “Religion, Morality, Gender and Law: Same Sex Marriage in Japan”, was held on 26 February 2019. The lecture was followed by a question and answer session chaired by Associate Professor Dan Puchniak (Director, CALS).

Professor Upham presented on the prospects of legal reform in Japan to enable same-sex marriage. The lecture began by describing how Japan has yet to legalise same-sex marriage despite being a developed nation and having a long history of tolerance for same-sex relations. The status quo in Japan reveals the vocal opposition to same-sex marriage by Japan’s political leadership, the ‘invisibility’ of same-sex couples in the public sphere, and its legal and emotional ramifications, as well as the state’s support for transgender rights but not the rights of the ‘LGB’ segment of the community. Professor Upham then postulated how legal change can be effected in two ways. First, legislative advocacy that focuses on alleviating the pain and suffering of same-sex couples as a result of their ‘non-existence’. Second, the use of litigation to argue for same-sex marriage on the basis of the Japanese Constitution and the Japanese Civil Code. The lecture concluded by highlighting the debate as to whether same-sex marriage amounts to ‘conformist repression’ – the imposition of an inherently heteronormative family structure on same-sex couples.


About the Speaker

Professor Upham is the Wilf Family Professor of Property Law at New York University (NYU) Law School. He graduated from Princeton University in 1967 and Harvard Law School in 1974, and worked as a journalist in Asia and as an assistant attorney general in Massachusetts before entering academia. At NYU, he teaches the basic and advanced courses on property, law and development, and comparative law and society with an emphasis on East Asia and the developing world. His scholarship deals with issues of property rights, social change, and gender equality; with a focus on Japan and China. His most recent book, The Great Property Fallacy: Theory, Reality, and Growth in Developing Countries, employs an empirical study of the roles of property rights in global development from the English enclosures to contemporary Cambodia. His latest project is a comparative study of the interaction of legal doctrine, social and economic structure, and culture in gender discrimination in France, Japan, and the United States.


L-R: Associate Professor Chen Weitseng (Deputy Director, CALS) and Professor Frank Upham


Professor Frank Upham delivering the seminar titled “The Great Property Fallacy” on 25 February


L-R: Associate Professor Dan Puchniak (Director, CALS), Professor Frank Upham and Associate Professor Chen Weitseng

 

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