Funded by alumni, friends and former students of Rudolf Bernhardt on the occasion of his 90th birthday in 2015, the Rudolf Bernhardt Lecture honors the life and work of the institute’s director emeritus.
Marie Petersmann is a Senior Researcher at Tilburg Law School in the Netherlands. Her research focuses on how key co-ordinates of international environmental law must be reconfigured to make sense of entangled human-nonhuman relationalities. Her work lies at the intersection of legal theory, ecological philosophy and political ecology. Her current project on ‘Anthropocene Legalities: Reconfiguring Legal Relations with/in More-than-human Collectives’ is funded by the Dutch NWO. In 2022-2023, she will be a Fellow at the Istituto Svizzero in Rome to work with ecological activists on practices of ‘more-than-human commoning’. Marie holds a PhD and an LLM in International and European Law from the European University Institute in Florence and an MA in International Law from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva. Her monograph, titled When Environmental Protection and Human Rights Collide: The Politics of Conflict Management by Regional Courts, is forthcoming with Cambridge University Press.
The mainstream register of human rights protection has changed course. Increasingly, European countries are taking action to recognize and integrate nonhu- man rights into their domestic legal systems. Whether through litigation on behalf of trees in Belgium, a legislative initiative to grant rights to Mar Menor in Spain, or a legal recognition of ‘rights of nature’ in Northern Ireland, these developments all point to an expansion of the liberal category of right-holders beyond the human, i.e. towards more-than-human rights. These developments rest on a profound reconfiguration of the legal ordering of human-nonhuman relations and aligns with strands of theory and practice that attempt to re-attune a modernist legality to Anthropocene legalities. How can the liberal paradigm of human rights accommodate more-than-human concerns? Who are the humans and nonhumans in more-than-human rights approaches? Who can be, act and exist as ‘subject’ in Anth- ropocene legalities? In this lecture, I explore how the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) conceptualizes the category of (non)human victims in relation to ecological harms. Since individuated victims can only act when environmental damages violated their ‘own rights’, I turn to relational and posthumanist theories to offer helpful entry points yet also limitations to rethink what it means to (co)act with nonhumans. The aim of the lecture is to open up new avenues for inquiry and critique of the environmental case-law of the ECtHR and its narrow understanding of both the ‘victim status’ and the ‘general interest in environmental protection’.
Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law
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