The Irreplaceability of Place: What We Lose When We Lose Our Homeland

Anno LVI, n. 232, settembre-dicembre 2021
Centro Einaudi
Articolo completo/Full text


In this article, I will address the loss of a homeland that is experienced, or will be experienced, by residents of small island states. The central claim of the paper is that a homeland is an irreplaceable good. I offer a threefold definition of irreplaceability which is comprised of historical, personal, and sacred value. From this principle, I aim to show that compensation proposals currently on offer only deal with individual or territorial rights and thus miss the irreplaceable value of the homeland. I go on to examine compensation as a concept in the work of Robert Goodin. I review Goodin’s text on forms of compensation and ultimately claim that in the wake of the loss of an irreplaceable good both means replacing and ends-displacing compensation fail. That is, they are either inadequate, impossible, or inappropriate. I also argue that in some cases ends-displacing compensation may contribute to the harm. I distance myself from claims for prevention from both Goodin and Avner de Shalit. Instead, I propose that what is most important is that we prepare for our moral failures and make non-compensatory repair in addition to attempts to compensate. This leads into a discussion of restorative as opposed to reparative justice concerning truth and reconciliation.