Journal of Human Rights and the Environment

Human rights, property and the search for ‘worlds other’*

Anna Grear *

Keywords: human rights, property, critique, ambivalence, exclusion v excludability, ‘worlds other’, environment, eco-humane subjectivities


While some accounts of rights and property paradigms see property as an inherent incident of a colonizing form of human rights law and discourse, others draw out the contradictions between them, suggesting that human rights and property have opposing impulses towards inclusion and exclusion respectively. While not rejecting the insights of either of these positions, the author argues that a fundamental ambivalence lies at the heart of human rights law and discourse demonstrating both oppressive and emancipatory potential. This ambivalence is, the author argues, also internal to the Western property concept – a claim facilitating a renewed emphasis upon property's inclusory potential as an institutional foundation for a more eco-humane and vulnerability-responsive ordering of legal relations.

Author Notes

This article draws on earlier work, most notably: ‘Framing the Project: The Dysfunctional Family of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ in C Gearty and C Douzinas, The Cambridge Handbook of Human Rights (CUP, Cambridge 2012); Chapter 8 of Redirecting Human Rights: Facing the Challenge of Corporate Legal Humanity (Palgrave MacMillan, Basingstoke 2010); ‘A Tale of the Land, the Insider, the Outsider and Human Rights’ (2003) 23/1 Legal Studies 33. The author would like to thank the following people for comment and critique on the relevant parts of the earlier work forming the heart of this argument: Kevin Gray; Upendra Baxi; Conor Gearty; Costas Douzinas; Brigid Hadfield; Peter Edge; Michael Daly; Susan Gibbons; and for their comments on this paper, Karen Morrow, Evadne Grant and Andreas Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos.

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