Collegium Helveticum
Still from the movie Forest | An Evocation Mali Weil

Rethinking Law beyond Linear Time and the Individual Subject

In recent years, the reflection on the representation of nonhuman entities in law has advanced considerably. It moved from the realm of philosophical debates to a practice of legislative acts and decisions through which the natural world has been provided with legal status. While these advances are remarkable, they also risk reasserting dichotomies, such as individual–thing or subject–object, that reaffirm the anthropocentric character of modern Western thought and law. Designing legal instruments that do not affirm such dichotomies is a philosophical and legal dilemma. In order to imagine possibilities, it can be helpful to think of nature as an abstraction—a social construct that has historically emerged through legal techniques. Indeed, the natural world was objectified, dominated, and made available for exploitation through law.

This workshop explored law as both discourse and technique that makes social reality. It analyzes nature among its creations and how it has been established through the invention of juridical forms. What legal instruments would enable us to understand the natural world not as the object of value extraction but as a dynamic set of living relations? How do such instruments change the way we conceive of the modern legal subject—and the notion of time that underlies such an actor? Engaging with these questions allows us to study law as one of the crucial techniques that shape our societies.

The evening before, Forests | An evocation, a movie by the art collective Mali Weil, was screened at the Collegium. The movie resulted from three years of research by the collective on the legal relationships that the Global North maintains with the physical and conceptual space of the forest.

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