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Private Property and Political Power

Yara Al Salman

I am a PhD candidate in political philosophy at the Ethics Institute of Utrecht University. I have a Bachelor in Liberal Arts and Sciences (with a focus on sociology, law and politics) from Amsterdam University College and a Master degree from the London School of Economics, where I studied Political Theory.

My subproject focuses on practices of common and shared property and their implication for the traditional divide between the private and public sphere. For centuries, people have organised themselves in commons in order to share property rights to natural resources. Recently the commons have received renewed attention in the context of civic participation, with neighbourhood residents commonly owning and managing libraries, parks and other amenities. Sharing personal belongings, too, is becoming more and more prevalent. The rise of ‘the sharing economy’ has enabled us to share things with strangers, rather than just with friends and family. These practices are difficult to locate in the liberal image of distinct private and public spheres. Legally, they constitute private forms of property. However, the practices are often guided by public considerations, as can be seen in the case of communal libraries. What’s more, these practices may affect public interests, without participants being publically accountable for it. How should we conceive of this challenge to the private/public divide? And, more importantly, what should be our response to it? These are the questions I aim to address in my research.