For Edward Said (1993, 7), the relation between imperialism and land is a fundamental one: "At some very basic level, imperialism means thinking about, settling on, and controlling land that you do not possess, that is distant, that is lived on and often involves untold misery for others." (128)

Jeremy Bentham offers a more explicit example of the frontier that separates the spaces of property and violence. Property, for Bentham ([1843] 1978, 52), was "an established expectation" that requires the security provided by law for it to exist: "Property and law are born together, and die together. Before laws were made there was no property; take away laws, and property ceases." In the absence of security, property fails, and so does economic activity. The colonial landscapes of North America, he claimed, offered a striking contrast between the domain where property and security coexist and its antithesis - the violent spaces in which property is absent:

The interior of that immense region offers only a frightful solitude; impenetrable forests or sterile plains, stagnant waters and impure vapors; such is the earth when left to itself. The fierce tribes which rove through these deserts without fixed habitations, always occupied with the pursuit of game, and animated against each other by implacable rivalries, meet only for combat, and often succeed only in destroying each other. The beasts of the forest are not so dangerous to man as he is to himself. But on the borders of these frightful solitudes, what different sights are seen! We appear to comprehend in the same view the two empires of good and evil. Forests give place to cultivated fields, morasses are dried up, and the surface, grown firm, is covered with meadows, pastures, domestic animals, habitations healthy and smiling. Rising cities are built upon regular plans; roads are constructed to communicate between them; everything announces that men, seeking the means of intercourse, have ceased to fear and to murder each other. (Bentham [1843] 1978, 56)

Yet, once established, Harris (1993, 67) argues, the land system itself became the most important form of disciplinary power: "It defined where people could and could not go as well as their rights to land use, and it backed these rights, as need be, with sovereign power... the land system itself became powerfully regulative. Survey lines and fences were pervasive forms of disciplinary power backed by a property owner, backed by the law, and requiring little official supervision." (129)

"Law, Property, and the Geography of Violence: The Frontier, the Survey, and the Grid" (2003)
Nicholas Blomley