Thursday, October 18 • 9:50am - 10:10am
What Michel Foucault can tell us about private ownership in and appropriation of celestial bodies

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Since the dawn of civilization, humans from all over the world, guided by the primordial need to explore, have spun tales of space travel. Yet, despite all the stories of celestial adventures and the eons of desiring to know and reach for the moon and beyond, it has only been in the past few decades that people have spoken of privately owning and appropriating celestial bodies. The discussion around this relatively young notion grows in crescendo daily and yet it leaves little room for reflecting critically on the causes and potential effects of this newfound fascination with celestial ownership. One may find reasonable the lack of any such reflection in the technological, political and economic fields that -rightfully so- concern themselves with the practical side of space use and exploration. Where this lack becomes troubling however, is in the existing literature on space law, which, while greatly concerned with the legality of private ownership in and appropriation of celestial bodies and their resources, rarely includes in depth discussion on the nature of property and its connection with power -not just economic or political power- over people. It is this gap that this presentation will address and endeavour to fill.

As space becomes more accessible and the need for clear international laws increases, conducting such a critical analysis is imperative. After all, our effort to ‘bring space down to earth’ will not be successful if we forget to first bring to this new domain what we have learned in our time on earth. One of the things we have learned when it comes to private property and appropriation rights in land is that all too often they have been used as a tool of disenfranchisement and oppression. In turn, through the use of the theories on power, especially as it relates to private property, posited by French philosopher Michel Foucault and his intellectual descendants, we can apply this knowledge to the celestial domain. To do so, this presentation will provide an analysis of the most popular justifications given by academics from various fields, politicians and private companies in favor of the establishment of exclusionary rights in celestial bodies. By analysing the language used in these arguments and the notions they promote as evident and undisputable, it will be shown that the concept of property and appropriation championed by the proponents of these rights is a familiar technology of power. This technology has previously been used to promote narratives such as that of the American Frontier; narratives that have historically perpetuated the unequal treatment of some parts of the populace and the exercise of oppressive power. It is on the basis of that observation that this work will posit that if the use and exploration of space is to truly be the province of all mankind and for the benefit of all peoples, a new notion of property must be constructed before we can continue taking giants leaps beyond our homeworld.


Georgia Psarrou

LLM Student, Institute of Air & Space Law (IASL), McGill University
Georgia Psarrou is a Masters student at the McGill Institute of Air & Space Law. Early on in her undergraduate studies in law at the University of Sussex she developed a great interest in researching the ways power can operate through legal instruments to serve the interests of States... Read More →

Thursday October 18, 2018 9:50am - 10:10am EDT
Room AB Concordia Conference Center, MB Building 9th floor, 1450 Guy St, Montreal, QC H3H 0A1
  Social Sciences, Ethics