University of Cambridge > > Legal Histories beyond the State > Thinking Inside the Box: ‘Modular’ Historiography, the Ethiopian Empire and Other Subjects of International Law

Thinking Inside the Box: ‘Modular’ Historiography, the Ethiopian Empire and Other Subjects of International Law

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Surabhi Ranganathan.

There will be a pre-circulated reading for this talk. Please contact Surabhi at if you would like a copy

Rose will discuss some of the historiographical aspects of the argument she makes in a new book, The Process of International Legal Reproduction: Inequality, Historiography, Resistance (CUP, 2019). Drawing on a renegade group of Marxist theorists, including Walter Benjamin, Mikhail Bakhtin, Stuart Hall and Bernard Edelman, the book develops a materialist approach to the study of the history of law and international law that refuses to pitch ‘context’ and ‘anachronism’ against one another, instead relying on and celebrating both. This approach is centered, above all, on a particular understanding of the relationship between the micro and the macro – between the individual and the state as legal subjects, for example, or between ‘Abyssinia Crisis’ of 1935-36 (her central case study) and the general process via which, it argues, new subjects of international law are brought into being and disciplined. In order to perform (or materialise) this historiographical part of its intervention, and get away at least to some extent from the linearity of the written volume, the book’s ‘modular history’ of what it calls the process of international legal reproduction is constructed in the form of a shadow-box, within which a set of distinct historical elements may be seen in relation to one another from different angles, added to, moved about and in general played around with by the reader/viewer.

(Rose will also be giving a lunchtime lecture at the Lauterpacht Centre on the following day, Friday 31 January. In this lecture she’ll focus on the juridical/doctrinal rather than on the methodological/historical aspects of the book – in particular, the conditional relationship between individual and international legal subjectivity which the process of international legal reproduction brings to light, and its implications for some of international law’s foundational doctrines – those of sovereignty equality and the domestic analogy, for example.)

This talk is part of the Legal Histories beyond the State series.

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