The Entanglement of Sovereignty and Property in International Law: From German Southwest Africa to the Great Land Grab?
21 Pages Posted: 18 Nov 2018
Date Written: October 28, 2018
This article argues that an intricate entanglement existed between sovereignty and property in German Southwest Africa. Germany’s control over Southwest Africa depended considerably on European settlements, which received logistical, financial, and military support by Germany. The result was a symbiotic relationship between the government and private economic actors, a form of state capitalism under which private settlements contributed to the establishment of territorial control, a prerequisite of sovereign power. Contractual relationships suggesting formally equal relationships, and during and after the genocide, a mix of arguments drawing on tort law and an idea of formal legality, provided crucial justification for the assumption of territorial control. This description contradicts standard accounts of sovereignty, which tend to turn a blind eye on private property. The article discusses the implications of these findings for today’s international law, including for state responsibility for transnational corporations and the so-called Great Land Grab, the acquisition of vast lands in Africa by foreign public and private agents.
Keywords: Sovereignty, Property, Colonialism, German Southwest Africa, Namibia, Land Grab, Transnational Corporations
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