Purpose – This paper aims to problematise the relation between “legality” and the state, through a case study analysis of law at work within the built environment. In doing so, the paper argues that studies on law and geography should consider the broader processes of state “law making” to understand the production of illegal space.
Design/methodology/approach – The liminal boundary of illegal/legal and its relation with the state is developed through a case study on the legalisation process of a “squatter” settlement located on the outskirts of Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. The paper draws on primary qualitative research (semi-structured interviews) and legal analysis undertaken in Kyrgyzstan at various times over seven months between 2011 and 2013.
Findings – Examining law as static and pre-existing is problematic in developing an understanding of the production of illegal and legal spaces within the built environment. An emphasis on law-making and the process of legalisation draws attention to the different groups, practices and policies involved and reframes the relation between the state and legality.
Originality/value – Using a case study anchoring the analysis within law’s constitutive and contested presence within the built environment, the paper addresses a theoretical and empirical panacea in legal geography by unpacking the “legal” with reference to its plurality internally within the state. Moreover, studies on law and geography have tended to focus on European or North American contexts, whereas this paper draws on data from Central Asia.