CORVALLIS, Ore. – The new look of property ownership in the United States is the topic of a lecture on Monday, Nov. 12, at Oregon State University by Elizabeth Blackmar of Columbia University.

Part of OSU’s 2007-08 American Culture & Politics series, Blackmar’s talk is titled “Ownership and Absenteeism: The Changing Character of American Property.” It begins at 4 p.m. in the Memorial Union Journey Room at OSU and is free and open to the public.

The U.S. has one of the highest rates of home ownership in the world. Even as the recent crisis in the mortgage market is a reminder of how contingent that ownership is on credit, the notion of “taking ownership” circulates as a popular metaphor for individual responsibility and maturity. In a corporate economy, however, ownership of all manner of resources has also been organized through financial instruments—for example, company stocks or shares in real estate investment trusts or shares in mortgage pools.

A long tradition of social criticism has charged that the “absentee ownership” created through such investments leads to the concentration of wealth and comes at the expense of individual responsibility and accountability. Advocates of such investments, however, celebrate them as a means of democratizing ownership of productive resources. This talk examines these debates in relation to the transformation of real estate development in the United States since 1945.

Blackmar is professor of history at Columbia. She is author of “Manhattan for Rent, 1785–1850,” and co-author with Roy Rosenzweig of “The Park and the People: A History of Central Park.” She has recently published articles on real estate investment trusts, pension funds, and the ownership of shopping malls, and on the rhetoric of “commons” in contemporary political discourse.

For more information, contact the History Department (541-737-8560) or visit

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Elissa Curcio,