Practical Philosophy Seminar: Alejandra Mancilla, "Effective disoccupation"

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Alejandra Mancilla, Professor of Philosophy, Department of Philosophy, Classics, History of Art and Ideas, University of Oslo

Photo: Oda Davanger/UiO


In international law, the doctrine of effective occupation was developed by imperial and colonial powers to justify their sovereignty over newly annexed territories, and was measured by two criteria: animus occupandi, that is, the right will or intention to be sovereign over the territory; and corpus occupandi, that is, the actual exercise of sovereignty to mark presence in the territory. What counted as “actual”, however, was narrowly understood as having a legal and institutional system similar enough to the European, thus allowing for the dispossession and loss of control of the native inhabitants over the lands that the European colonized.

The morally outrageous implications of this narrow concept of sovereignty for the subjected peoples were denounced with increasing force especially since the second half of the twentieth century, giving way to a process of global decolonization that raised the number of states from around 90 in the 1950s to 195 today, and counting. However, the morally outrageous implications of this narrow concept of sovereignty for the nonhuman, natural world remain intact. Today, both the ex-colonial powers and the newly independent states enjoy Permanent Sovereignty over Natural Resources, which has allowed not only the use, but the overuse and abuse of the nonhuman, natural world. The consequences are staring us in our face, the most obvious being climate change and the biodiversity crisis.

In this article, I propose a transition from effective occupation to effective disoccupation when it comes to the nonhuman, natural world—not only on the grounds that we must, but also on the grounds that we should. To enact effective disoccupation, states must show animus disoccupandi, that is, the right will or intention to give up Permanent Sovereignty over Natural Resources and to replace it with Permanent Trusteeship. To this must be added the corpus disoccupandi, to wit, the concrete, actual exercise of trusteeship over the territory.

Published Apr. 26, 2021 12:52 PM - Last modified June 28, 2022 1:07 PM