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To whom belongs the world? Volume 4: Destructive ownership?

Eva von Redecker takes a critical look at what ownership is

Our summer topics this year are all about property. To whom do belong e.g. air, water, climate, our cities - or our sleep? HU-scientists are doing research in these topics. Volume 4 with the Philosopher Eva von Redecker.

Eva von Redecker is a philosopher who takes a critical look at what ownership is. Critical means she examines the genealogy of the term and compares the conception of ownership in the premodern era with ours: in the Middle Ages, the prince could not do what he wanted with his castle, because it was given to him by the king, and the king had all things given to him by God. The obligation to protect that is associated with this term, namely not to be destructive with your possessions, was supplanted in the modern era with absolute control over property: I can do what I want with what belongs to me, and that includes destroying it.

Her next question is how something can become property which previously was not even regarded as the possible subject of ownership. Air or small children, for example, are excluded from it in principle, she believes. But land is also not something that has always had that potential. Seemingly natural boundaries like hedges or the hedge banks you find in the philosopher’s home region of northern Germany were used to mark out ownership of land. Finally, one of her most provocative theses is that the hedge banks and hedges are to land what femaleness is to persons. She thus believes that being-female fundamentally goes hand in hand with the possibility of being regarded as property. In the modern age, land and women are “propertised”.

Summer Issue: To whom belongs the world?

Volume 1: To Whom Belongs the Sleep?

Volume 2: Water shortage on the islands Tinos and Syros

Volume 3: Some family members are more equal than others


Eva von Redecker
Department of Philosophy
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Phone: 030 2093-2529