We are used to hearing people speak not only on behalf of themselves but also on behalf of other entities: heaven, the rain forest, animals, the city, and so forth. The Parliament of Things is a theory developed by Bruno Latour that makes a case for the rights of objects. According to Latour, modern man refuses to recognise the rights, autonomy and agency of objects. He argues for a vision of the world in which the value (not the worth) of objects and other entities plays an active role. In developing this form of conversation, we want to distance ourselves from anthropocentric thinking, which places man in the centre of the universe, and investigate the relation between ourselves and things. Can we speak on behalf of things?

Another source of inspiration for this conversation is the Council of All Beings, a worldwide practice that investigates our relation to nonhuman entities, and nature in particular. Among other things, this council refers to a ritual of the Aboriginals, who relate to plants, clouds or a mountain as if they were their ancestors. During the Parliament of Things we investigate what it means for us Westerners to speak on behalf of things, on behalf of nature. Will this remain a dualistic relation between people and things, or is it conceivable that a different relation will unfold, that we will give ourselves a different place in the universe?

We are developing the Parliament of Things together with Partizan Publik, a campaign bureau in Amsterdam. They are planning to set up an actual Parliament of Things in the Netherlands in the spring of 2018. We share our findings with them. Read more about Partizan Publik here.

If you would like to have more information about the Parliament of Things or want to participate, please send an email to join@buildingconversation.nl.

Here is a report (in Dutch) by Partizan Publik’s Thijs Middeldorp, who took part in a session of the Parliament of Things on 12 May 2016. Read about his experience here (in Dutch).