How do cultures around the world think about property and ownership?

Dr Saskia Vermeylen

The Sharing Economy is challenging the West's traditional view of ownership, but other ways of thinking about property and possession have existed for millennia. What do they look like?

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Amid cultural differences and alternative models, how do we rethink and reimagine property for the 21st century?

You may think it's clear what it means to own an object or a plot of land, or even (a little more intangibly) a piece of intellectual property, like a book you've written. But it's not actually as much of a consensus as you might assume, and the question of what property means and who has a right to it will get you a different answer depending on which culture you're asking.

Dr Saskia Vermeylen is one of a small number of experts in the world focusing on the next frontiers in property, from outer space to microbes to the deep sea, while her work as a legal anthropologist has led her to explore attitudes to ownership in cultures all over the globe. Saskia joins us in The Garden to look at ideas of property and ownership through the lens of Indigenous, African and non-liberal Western theory.

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50 minutes



About the Fellow

Dr Saskia Vermeylen

Dr Saskia Vermeylen is a socio-legal property scholar, with an eclectic range of research areas, from how Indigenous Peoples approach property, to ownership in works of African Futurism and science fiction.

Rethinking Collection

It’s always good to question what we think we know. The Rethinking Collection is a series of Garden Talks by world experts that reexamine the ideas and events that have shaped and continue to shape our world.