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Snatching Something From Death – Value, Justice, and Humankind’s Common Heritage (Discussion Seminar)

Thu May 12th 2022, 10:00am - 12:00pm
Event Sponsor
Encina Hall, Oksenberg Room (3rd floor)

The 2022 Tanner Lectures are given by Cécile Fabre, Senior Research Fellow in Politics at All Souls College, Oxford, and Professor of Political Philosophy at the University of Oxford. 

The overall title of these Tanner Lectures is: "Snatching Something From Death – Value, Justice, and Humankind’s Common Heritage."

When Notre-Dame Cathedral was engulfed by fire on April 15, 2019, the world (it seemed) watched in horror. On Twitter, Facebook, in newspapers and on TV cables ranging as far afield from Paris as South Africa, China and Chile, people expressed their sorrow at the partial destruction of the church, particularly the collapse of the spire, and anguish at what very nearly happened - the complete destruction of a jewel of Gothic architecture whose value somehow transcends time and space.  When President Trump threatened to bomb Iran's cultural sites in the closing days of 2019, in defiance of the laws of war, he elicited outrage, not just on behalf of Iranians but on behalf of the world at large: the ancient city of Persepolis, for example, is widely regarded as one the world's most significant archeological sites. 

The thought that there are landmarks - some human-made, others natural, others still at the intersection of the human and the natural world - which have universal value is a familiar one. It also raises some deep concerns, not least regarding conflicting interpretations of what it means for a landmark to have outstanding universal value, and, relatedly, regarding the risks of undue cultural appropriation, particularly on the part of former colonial or quasi-colonial powers towards peoples and territories which they once held in their grip. 

Nevertheless, the aim of these lectures is to offer a philosophical account and defence of World Heritage's central ideal, to wit, that there is such a thing as humankind's common heritage, and that this heritage makes stringent moral demands on us.

This discussion seminar focuses on both Lecture 1 ("Valuing Humankind Heritage" - May 10) and Lecture 2 ("Justice and Humankind’s Heritage" - May 11). 

Hybrid Event. In-person attendance is open to the general public.

Cécile Fabre is Senior Research Fellow in Politics at All Souls College, Oxford, and Professor of Political Philosophy at the University of Oxford. She previous taught at the London School of Economics and the University of Edinburgh. She holds degrees from La Sorbonne University, the University of York, and the University of Oxford. Her research interests include theories of distributive justice, issues relating to the rights we have over our own body and, more recently, just war theory, and the ethics of foreign policy. Her books include Cosmopolitan War (OUP 2012), Cosmopolitan Peace Cosmopolitan Peace (OUP 2016), Economic Statecraft (Harvard UP 2018). In her most recent book, Spying Through a Glass Darkly (OUP, forthcoming 2022), she investigates the ethics of espionage. She is a Fellow of the British Academy. 


Lynn Meskell is Penn Integrates Knowledge (PIK) Professor at the University of Pennsylvania. She is Richard D. Green Professor of Anthropology in the School of Arts and Sciences, Professor in the Graduate Program in Historic Preservation at the Weitzman School of Design, and curator in the Middle East and Asia sections at the Penn Museum. Currently she serves as AD White Professor-at-Large at Cornell University (2019-2025). She holds Honorary Professorships at Oxford and Liverpool in the UK, and Johannesburg, South Africa. Previously Lynn was the Shirley and Leonard Ely Professor of Humanities and Sciences in the Department of Anthropology at Stanford University. She is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. Lynn conducted an institutional ethnography of UNESCO World Heritage, tracing the politics of governance and sovereignty and the subsequent implications for multilateral diplomacy, international conservation, and heritage rights. Employing archival and ethnographic analysis, her award-winning book A Future in Ruins: UNESCO, World Heritage, and the Dream of Peace (OUP, 2018) reveals UNESCO’s early forays into a one-world archaeology and its later commitments to global heritage.

Leif Wenar is Olive H. Palmer Professor in Humanities and, by courtesy, Professor of Political Science and Professor of Law. He has been a Visiting Professor at the Stanford Center on Ethics and Society, a fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, the William H. Bonsall Visiting Professor in the Stanford Philosophy Department, a Laurance S. Rockefeller Fellow and a Visiting Professor at Princeton’s University Center for Human Values, a Visiting Professor at the Princeton Department of Politics, a Fellow of the Program on Justice and the World Economy at the Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs, a Faculty Fellow at the Center for Ethics and Public Affairs at The Murphy Institute of Political Economy, and a Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University School of Philosophy. He is the author of Blood Oil: Tyrants, Violence, and the Rules that Run the World and the author-meets-critics volume Beyond Blood Oil: Philosophy, Policy, and the Future. He is also the author of the entries ‘John Rawls’ and ‘Rights’ in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. His articles have appeared in Mind, Analysis, Philosophy & Public Affairs, Ethics, The Journal of Political Philosophy, The Columbia Law Review, and The Philosopher’s Annual.He co-edited an autobiographical volume on the economist FA Hayek, as well as Giving Well: The Ethics of Philanthropy.

This event is part of a new, year-long Ethics & Political Violence series jointly sponsored by the McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society and the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC). The series of seminars and public lectures will feature philosophers, lawyers, historians, social scientists, human rights activists, soldiers and political leaders grappling with vexing moral questions raised by uses of violence in international relations and domestic politics.

Hybrid Event. In-person attendance is open to the general public.