EGMT 1540: Who Owns the Earth?

Why do people own land? What exactly do you own when you own land? What are the ethical implications of land ownership? Are there lands that should be owned collectively, or not at all? What is justice for people who have been dispossessed of their land? Can there be justice for the land itself? This course examines these questions and more through ancient and modern case studies of land reform movements. We will examine royal decrees from ancient Mesopotamia, the reforms of the ancient Greek lawmaker Solon, the Biblical tradition of the Jubilee year, and the reforms of Gracchi during the Roman Republic. We will explore how the ethical questions raised in antiquity resonate with modern movements for land justice, such as the Justice for Black Farmers Act and the Indigenous-led #LandBack movement. Alongside these case studies, we will furthermore consider the implications of our own habitation, as individuals with and without rights, as members of communities, and as participants in ecologies.