Boston University School of Law
anna di robilant

Anna di Robilant

Professor of Law
Law Degree, University of Turin (Italy)
LLM, Harvard Law School
PhD, University of Trento (Italy)
SJD, Harvard Law School

Full CV


Phone: 617-353-3099

Areas of Interest:

  • Property Law
  • Comparative Law
  • European Law
  • Private Law Theory
  • European Legal History
Recent Courses:
  • Comparative Law
  • Historical Perspectives on Law, Constitutions, and Culture

Professor Anna di Robilant is a property law scholar trained in both Europe and the United States. She writes and teaches in the areas of property law, property theory, legal history and comparative law.

di Robilant’s scholarship focuses on two main themes. The first theme is to question the idea, long shared by comparative law experts, that property law in Europe and the United States is fundamentally different. By contrast, di Robilant’s work suggests that modern Western property is the product of a “transatlantic dialogue” shaped by intellectual, professional, social, and economic factors. For example, in her article, “Abuse of Rights. The Continental Drug and the Common Law,” Professor di Robilant challenges the idea that the doctrine of “abuse of rights” is a peculiarity of civil law systems, absent in the common law and explores the reasons for the parallel, yet different, development of the doctrine in the two systems. Similarly, in “Property: A Bundle of Sticks or a Tree?, Professor di Robilant questions the idea that the “bundle of sticks” image of property is an American invention and examines the intellectual, political, and economic concerns that led European jurists, in the first half on the 20th century, to develop a new conceptualization of property as a “tree” that shares many of the intuitions of the “bundle of rights” approach and yet differs from it in significant ways.

The second theme in di Robilant’s property scholarship is designing property law institutions that reflect the values of a free and democratic society, committed to making access to fundamental resources, such as housing, water, cultural or natural resources, more equitable. In “Common Property and Equality of Autonomy,” di Robilant analyzes the challenges involved in the design of common ownership institutions, such as conservation land trusts, affordable-housing co-operatives, community gardens, neighborhood-managed parks, and proposes refocusing the design work on promoting greater “equality of autonomy.” Similarly, in “Property and Democratic Deliberation,” di Robilant examines a selection of recently created property forms which establish mechanisms of democratic and deliberative governance for resources as diverse as natural resources, scarce urban land, historic landmarks, or cultural institutions.

Professor di Robilant is currently working at an article entitled “Populist Property Law,” which retrieves long forgotten property forms developed by the “folk legal wisdom” of social movements representing farmers and workers in 19th century America who sought to expand access to land and agricultural credit. She is also working at a book on the history of property law in Europe.

Professor di Robilant is the chair of the Property section of the” Common Core of European Private Law,” a project that has brought together more than 200 legal scholars and practitioners to analyze and map the connections and underlying similarities in Contract, Property, and Torts laws across Europe. She received her JD from the University of Torino, Italy; her PhD in Comparative Private Law from the University of Trento, Italy, and her LLM and SJD from Harvard Law School.

di Robilant’s scholarly papers are available on her SSRN page, here.

Selected Publications

"Property and Democratic Deliberation," 64 American Journal of Comparative Law (2014).

"Property: A Bundle of Sticks or a Tree?", 66 Vanderbilt Law Review (2013).

"Common Ownership & Equality of Autonomy," 58 McGill Law Journal (2012).

"The Liberal-Egalitarian Commons," in Protecting Future Generations Through The Commons (Council of Europe, 2013).

"The Virtues of Common Ownership," 92 Boston University Law Review (2011).

"Abuse of Rights: The Continental Drug and the Common Law," 61 Hastings Law Journal 687 (2010).

"Genealogies of Soft Law," 54 American Journal of Comparative Law 499 (2006).


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