This paper focuses on four general themes – charity, legibility, facilitating regulation, and regulatory enforcement – in the governance of canals. The Canal and River Trust (“CRT”), the owner and manager of the waterways also has a statutory responsibility to grant “certificates” or licences. That body is a charity, and this article provides an empirical appreciation of the working of “charity” at the current time. It does so from the perspective of one of the objects of its beneficence, which the licence constructs as “continuous cruisers” who live aboard their boat. We demonstrate how the CRT translated obscure legislation to make it legible through techniques of simplification; and how apparently enabling and constraining regulation operates, paradoxically, in contradictory ways. At heart, there is a simple story here of a nomadic way of life which is of relatively recent vintage but which is being (or felt to be) gradually encroached upon and sedentarised.
Dave Cowan’s research is mostly socio-legal, and focuses on social theory and the housing system(s). His most recent book, with Helen Carr and Alison Wallace, is Ownership, Narrative, Things which develops an ethnographically oriented approach to the appreciation of property, ownership and tenure (Palgrave Socio-Legal Series, 2018). His other books include Homelessness: The (In)Appropriate Applicant (Dartmouth, 1997), Housing Law and Policy (Cambridge University Press, 2011), as well as co-authored books, The Appeal of Internal Review (Hart, 2003), Regulating Social Housing: Governing Decline (Glasshouse, 2005), and Great Debates in Land Law(Palgrave MacMillian, 2012, 2nd ed 2016). He is co-editor of a collection of essays, Exploring the Legal (Palgrave MacMillan, 2015, with Dan Wincott), which develops an argument about the uses of legality. His more recent work engages with modern histories of housing policy. His current project is about continuous cruising barges, which has been generously supported by a small grant from the UK Socio-Legal Studies Association. He is interested in this context in their regulation and governance, as well as the way in which home is made and unmade. Dave has been successful in obtaining funding for his research. His most recent project, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, concerned shared ownership. He has previously conducted and managed research funded by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, the Nuffield Foundation, ESRC, and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Dave is an editor of Social and Legal Studies and the series editor of the Palgrave MacMillan Socio-Legal Series.