Tatiana Flessas

Tatiana Flessas

Email: T.Flessas@lse.ac.uk
Administrative support: Michele Sahrle
Room: New Academic Building 7.27
Tel. 020-7955-6077

Tatiana Flessas holds a BA in Philosophy from Wellesley College, a JD from Northeastern University School of Law, and an LLM and PhD from the London School of Economics. Before joining the LSE, she practiced law in the US and taught at the University of Reading School of Law. Her research interests are in cultural property and heritage law, law and social theory, and law and literature.

Research Interests

My research is in the area of cultural property and legal theory, focussing on the emergence of cultural property regulation and heritage legislation as discourses of modernity. I look at the problems of defining cultural property, the controversy surrounding the ownership of the Parthenon Marbles, and how museums and the repatriation of ancient skeletons fit within the debates regarding the cultural commons. My work draws on modern philosophy from Nietzsche onwards, as well as literary theory.

External Activities
  • Dr Flessas has served as a consultant to the British Museum (with Professor Lionel Bently, Cambridge University); and is a consultant on legal issues for Artwatch International and Artwatch UK.


Murphy, Roberts & Flessas, Understanding Property Law, 4th Edition (Sweet & Maxwell 2004)

Understanding Property Law provides a background to an area of law which is notoriously inaccessible. Standing back from their subject, the authors of this book elucidate how the practices of the past have shaped the development and form of the modern law. In doing so they stress the role of lawyers in the transactions - such as sale, gift and inheritance - in which their clients become involved. This focus upon the work which lawyers do in their offices provides a necessary complement to the emphasis on legislation and adjudication found in most textbooks.

Selected articles
and chapters in books

(with Linda Mulcahy) 'Limiting Law: Art in the Street and Street in the Art' Law, Culture and the Humanities (2016) pp.1-23

Conventional legal responses to street art have tended to characterize it as a problem that is best dealt regulated through criminal or property law. This is not necessarily perceived of as a problem by street artists who have actively sought to situate understandings of their work outside of the law. But attitudes are changing. Street art is increasingly seen as having commercial value, enhancing the cityscape, creating new local art markets, attracting tourists, and contributing to the gentrification of impoverished areas. The result is that conventional ways of conceiving of street art have begun to pose new challenges to concepts of crime and property. Drawing on an observational study in London, this article proposes a new theorization of the legal problems posed by street art that pays close attention to the sensual experience of encountering it in the city and to street art as performance rather than artefact.

'The Ends of the Museum' (May 29, 2013). Law Society and Economy Working Paper Series No. 14/2013

In recent years, there have been a plethora of cases in which museums have had to release treasured pieces. New legal initiatives and developments increasingly make repatriation claims by source nations and other single or group ‘original owners’ possible, most recently in the area of illicitly-trafficked antiquities. Recent scholarship radically questions the genealogy and functions of the museum, and its relationship with the concepts of space, culture, and identity. In terms of space, there have been analyses that place the museum at the centre of disciplinary projects, ‘civilizing rituals’, architectural expressions of the diremptions in the genealogies and cultural histories of modernity. In terms of culture and identity, there have been similar deconstructions of the links between nation-building and housing art and artefacts. Museums are now searching for strategies to protect their collections from the loss of authority and status that attend repatriation claims in this climate of criticism. Yet, do museums collude in this loss of authority by joining in the ‘propertization’ of their collections? Embedded in the notion of modern museology is the primacy of the object. This, arguably, aids the legal and political initiatives that permit deaccessioning of objects, imposing external requirements on the retention or return of certain types of collections, and regulating the relationship between the collector and the museum.

Flessas, T and Holder, J. (2008) “Emerging Commons”, Social and Legal Studies Journal 17(3), Special Issue 2008 (21 pages).

‘The Repatriation Debate and the Discourse of the Commons' published in LSE Law, Society and Economy Working Paper Series  WPS 10-2007 October 2007 [to be published in Social and Legal Studies, Oct.2008]

What can the concept of ‘the commons’ lend to cultural property and heritage analysis? How can it be applied to these areas, if one looks beyond the protection of solely ‘natural’ resources such as land (although ‘land’, as a highly regulated substrate bearing a plethora of significations and values may itself no longer be considered a ‘natural’ resource)? The debates around property and culture are more usually understood by reference to ‘cultural nationalism,’ ‘cultural internationalism’ and the web of disciplines and resources that grow between these two traditional approaches, and yet, these resources leave many problems and issues in this field unresolved. The discourses that make up commons scholarship might serve to expand the tool box of cultural property discourse, in particular where the issues span the most personal and the most communal problems of all: human skeletons and repatriation claims. This essay argues that the very discourse of the commons itself is a strategy, a means of establishing and policing thresholds that in turn move according to strategies and desires of acquisition. In short, designating an object as located within ‘the commons’ is another way of justifying the appropriation of contested cultural property.

‘The Future Will Not Stop Escaping Us, The Teaching from the Left: A Conference at Harvard Law School: Part V: International Law' 31 New York University Review of Law & Social Change 661 (2006/07)

‘A house haunted by justice: Eichmann in Jerusalem’ 9 Law Text Culture 215 (2005)

‘Cultural Property Defined, and Redefined as Nietzschean Aphorism’ 24 Cardozo Law Review 1067 (2003)

‘Sacrificial Stone’ 14(1) Law and Literature 49 (2002)