Seeing Like a State: Land Law and Human Mobility after Super Typhoon Haiyan

43 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2017 Last revised: 26 Sep 2017

See all articles by Daniel Fitzpatrick

Daniel Fitzpatrick

Monash University

Caroline Compton

University of New South Wales (UNSW) - UNSW Law & Justice; Western Sydney University

Date Written: September 19, 2017


International frameworks for disaster management encourage states to incorporate risk reduction into land use planning. While the language is apolitical, the recommendation may entrench disaster vulnerability as risk reduction filters through the self-validating logic of the state. The issue is most apparent in the fields of land law and land use planning. The ideation of states as sovereign entities continues to shape the governance of land even in an age of transnational disaster governance. Most postcolonial states maintain positivist myths of sovereign control over land notwithstanding the persistent reality of informal settlements. State-centric constructions of land law and planning increase disaster risk for the billion or more landholders classified as informal or illegal in the Global South. This article applies a critical perspective to under-explored issues of land law, human mobility and state sovereignty in natural disaster contexts. We identify state-centric ways of interpreting relationships with land as elements of self-perpetuating needs to construct the sovereign authority of states, and conclude that the state is a problematic translator of international disaster risk reduction standards embodied in the Hyogo Framework for Adaptation Action 2005-2015, and its successor Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030. Our case study considers the re-population of prohibited hazard zones after super-Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

Keywords: Land Law, State Sovereignty, Human Mobility, Planned Relocation, Transnational Disaster Governance, Hurricane Disasters, Disaster Risk Reduction, Climate Change Adaptation

JEL Classification: K11, K33

Suggested Citation

Fitzpatrick, Daniel and Compton, Caroline and Compton, Caroline, Seeing Like a State: Land Law and Human Mobility after Super Typhoon Haiyan (September 19, 2017). New York University Journal of International Law and Politics (JILP), Vol. 50, Forthcoming , Available at SSRN: or

Caroline Compton

University of New South Wales (UNSW) - UNSW Law & Justice

Kensington, New South Wales 2052

Western Sydney University ( email )

Sydney, NSW 2751

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