Constitutional Displacement

94 Pages Posted: 4 Sep 2007 Last revised: 6 Nov 2009

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: August 1, 2007


This Article examines the largely overlooked intersection between territory and constitutional liberty. Territoriality - the attempt to affect, influence, or control people, phenomena, and relationships by delimiting and asserting control over a geographic area - affects constitutional liberty in profound ways. The effects have been apparent in certain infamous historical episodes, including the hyper-territoriality of racial segregation, the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, and isolation of the sick and mentally ill. Today, governments are resorting to territorial restrictions in an increasing number of circumstances, including the detention of enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay, the expulsion of illegal immigrants from local communities, the banishment of convicted sex offenders from vast geographic areas, the exclusion of homeless persons from public spaces, and the proposed isolation and quarantine of victims of pandemics and bio-terrorist attacks. These measures have produced what the Article refers to as Geographies of Justice, Membership, Punishment, Purification, and Contagion. Within these geographies persons and groups are subject to constitutional displacement - the territorial restriction or denial of fundamental liberties. The displacements examined in the Article substantially restrict or deny basic liberties including access to justice, migration, movement, communal and political membership, and the ability to be present in places of one's own choosing. The Article demonstrates that the Constitution provides remarkably little protection from certain forms of displacement. Analyzing the Constitution itself as a spatial framework, one that relies upon place, geography, and territory for various purposes, the Article shows that displacement arises from extra-territorial and intra-territorial spatial gaps in text and structure. The Article proposes that these spatial gaps be narrowed or closed.

Keywords: territory, territoriality, geography, place, spatiality, segregation, internment, travel, liberty

Suggested Citation

Zick, Timothy, Constitutional Displacement (August 1, 2007). St. John's Legal Studies Research Paper No. 07-0081. Available at SSRN: or

Timothy Zick (Contact Author)

William & Mary Law School ( email )

South Henry Street
P.O. Box 8795
Williamsburg, VA 23187-8795
United States
757-221-2076 (Phone)

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