“Rights of Things”

A Posthumanist Approach to Law?

in Nature and Culture
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  • 1 University of Giessen, Germany doris.schweitzer@sowi.uni-giessen.de
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Abstract

We can identify a legal vanishing point within neo-materialist and posthumanist approaches—either explicitly, for example, when things are regarded as political actors or contractual partners; or implicitly, when authors hint at the anthropocentric limitations of the granting of rights to human beings. Conversely, “rights of things” appear as a posthumanist approach to law as they decentralize “the human.” But do “rights of things” actually surmount the strict divide between humans (persona) and nonhumans (res) within law? By referring to three empirical cases—animal rights, rights of nature, and robot rights—I will argue that “rights of things” do not necessarily push against the anthropocentrism of law. Rather, we can identify a re-centralization of humans within a given milieu. Thus, the critical impact of the concept “rights of things” must be reconsidered; furthermore, we can draw some conclusions for the theoretical approaches of New Materialism and Posthumanism itself.

Contributor Notes

Doris Schweitzer (PD Dr.) recently worked as interim professor of Political Sociology at University of Erfurt, Germany. She studied Sociology and Law in Freiburg and received her Habilitation in Sociology (postdoctoral lecturing qualification) in 2020 at University of Giessen. Her research areas are Sociology of Law, Social Theory, and History of Sociology. Her current project analyzes the “new legal order of things.” ORCID: 0000-0001-6069-9237. E-mail: doris.schweitzer@sowi.uni-giessen.de.

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