6th Annual Lecture in Law and Ethics
"Territory, Expulsion, and the Right to Return"
Tuesday, March 11th
This lecture addresses two important questions raised by cases of removal from territory, including the expulsions of Germans and Poles following World War II, and the removals of tribal peoples in the Americas, Australia, and South Africa. First, how exactly should we conceive of the right that is violated by a territorial removal? We tend to think that removals are wrong because the people who live in a place have a right to be where they are. But what gives people the right to occupy a particular geographical space, and what is the nature of that right? Second, what corrective measures are appropriate when a wrongful expulsion has occurred in the past? When people are wrongly removed from their territory, should we take steps to undo the effects of this expulsion, and if so, what should these steps be? Does the case for correcting expulsion retain its force indefinitely, or is it only time-limited? I argue that rights to territorial occupancy are grounded in our fundamental interest in located life-plans. I also argue that rights to return can be justified for nearly all first-generation expelled persons, and--in a limited range of cases--for some second-or-third generation descendants.