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The Complexities of Land Reparations

25 Pages Posted: 6 Nov 2012  

Gregory S. Alexander

Cornell Law School

Date Written: November 5, 2012


The question whether unjust dispossessions of land perpetrated on whole peoples in the past should be corrected by restitution in kind, that is, granting reparations in the form of returning land to the dispossessed former owners or their present-day successors is substantially more complex than the questions posed by other forms of reparations. I argue that the complexities involved in all of the situations where claims for land reparations are made to correct historic injustices give us good reasons to be hesitant about granting such claims. At the same time, we should not dismiss such claims out of hand. Reparations which take a form other than restitution of dispossessed land may be both necessary and sufficient to establish a public marker of acknowledgment.

Keywords: Property, land, reparations, possession, justice

Suggested Citation

Alexander, Gregory S., The Complexities of Land Reparations (November 5, 2012). Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 12-63. Available at SSRN: or

Gregory S. Alexander (Contact Author)

Cornell Law School ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States
607-255-3504 (Phone)
607-255-7193 (Fax)

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