Hybrid political ontologies: legal personality for nature

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REVIP Research seminar

Guest: Mihnea Tanasescu, Research Fellow, FWO -Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Discussant: Violette Pouillard, FWO-Ghent University/FNRS-ULB

Abstract : There are already more than a dozen cases of rights for nature, spanning legal scales from municipal ordinances (in the United States) to state constitutions (in Ecuador) and negotiated settlements (New Zealand). If the evolution of this idea is any indication, many more laws will be granting rights to nature in the near future (Sweden is the latest jurisdiction to discuss them). This calls for an urgent critical engagement with what, until Ecuador’s 2008 constitution, was on the fringes of jurisprudential theory. 

This seminar takes a particularly close look at the rights for nature model as it has been deployed in Aotearoa New Zealand. There, a landscape (Te Urewera, 2014) and a river (Whanganui, 2017) have been constructed as legal entities, and therefore have rights. These events have been part of long-standing negotiations between indigenous Māori groups and the NZ government. Is legal recognition for nature a case of hybridization of worlds, of modern and non-modern conceptions coming together in order to form political alternatives? To answer this question, the particular context of Māori philosophy will be presented, such that the precise ways in which ontological hybridization might occur can be appreciated. The precise nature of the legal texts, and the ways they reflect the motivations of the different actors, will be examined. Finally, the question of whether this model of environmental legal intervention is apt for both delivering environmental results, and supporting indigenous emancipatory projects, will be explored. 

Mihnea Tanasescu is postdoctoral research fellow of the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO), at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), Belgium. His work has focused on the legal and political representation of other-than-human entities. In particular, he has written on the global movement advocating rights for nature, and has contributed to normative and epistemological debates on the concept and practice of politically representing nature. His latest project has investigated the practice of rewilding, particularly in a European context. He holds a PhD in Political Science from the VUB, and an MA in Philosophy from the New School for Social Research. 

Organising Committee:
Virginie Arantes (REPI-CEVIPOL), Alexis Carles, Vincent Chapaux (MSH), Eva Deront (PACTE-CEVIPOL), Eric Fabri (CTP), Anna Nguyen (REPI), Marc-Antoine Sabaté (CTP), Lou Villafranca Izquierdo (REPI), Krystel Wanneau (REPI-Ulaval), Christophe Wasinski (REPI)


Online registration required by 30 March via this link

Wednesday, April 1st 2020 from 12 till 2 pm

Université libre de Bruxelles

IEE 39 avenue F. Roosevelt (Kant room)

1050 Bruxelles

Contact & information: repi@ulb.be

Flyer (PDF)