About the Project

OWNERS is a 5-year research project (2017-2022) funded by a European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant awarded to Dr. Borja Martinović at Utrecht University, the Netherlands. The project examines collective psychological ownership (CPO) – a sense that a territory belongs to one’s ethnic group. Statements like ‘we were here first’ or ‘we built this country’ are increasingly used by right-wing politicians in immigration countries to claim ownership on historical basis for the dominant ethnic group, and to exclude newcomers, and there are also contexts where two established groups disagree about territorial ownership, such as Albanians and Serbs in Kosovo.

While CPO might strengthen solidarity within groups, it might worsen intergroup relations, thus threatening social cohesion. It is therefore important to establish where a sense of CPO comes from, and how it shapes intergroup relations, so that interventions could be implemented.

The OWNERS project examines

  1. the extent to which people perceive their ethnic group as historically owning the country,
  2. the psychological needs that motivate them to claim collective ownership, and
  3. the implications of collective ownership claims for attitudes towards ethnic groups.

The approach is multidisciplinary, combining social psychological theories on intergroup relations with the literature on ownership and territoriality from organizational science and anthropology. Empirical evidence about the importance of CPO will be provided by collecting representative survey data in European immigration countries (Netherlands, UK, France), settler societies (Australia, New Zealand, USA), and countries with clear territorial disputes (Kosovo, Cyprus, Israel).

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