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‚The States We’re In: Law, Inequality, Historiography, Resistance’, Dr. Rose Parfitt (Kent Law School)

January 31 @ 13:0014:30

Lecture summary
The idea that all states are equal, however powerful or wealthy they might be, is an axiom of international law both in theory and in practice. Yet from Araribóia to Grenfell to Hodeidah to Nauru, the astonishing levels of violence and inequality that characterise our formally post-fascist, post-colonial, post-communist world are striking. Breaking with certain methodological conventions, this talk will deploy a new, ‘modular’ approach to the study of the history of international law. Its aim in doing so is to draw attention to the process – simultaneously coercive and interpellative – through which the surface of the earth has come gradually, over the course of five centuries, to be covered in reproductions of the same, originally Western European form of human collectivity – namely, the sovereign state. Turning on their heads a series of canonical episodes from the history of international law (among them, the ‘Abyssinia Crisis’ of 1935-36), the talk will suggest that attending to this process, to the relentless logic of accumulation it sets in motion, and to the profound distributive consequences of that logic, throws into sharp relief international law’s role in perpetuating precisely the relations of domination it purports to challenge – relations that attend between species as much as they do between individuals and communities. Crucially, however, this commitment to transforming the world into a series of homogenous, ‘self-governing’ and, therefore, competitive and ruthlessly expansionist legal subjects has not been – and cannot be – entirely successful. Indeed, as the talk will show, it is, historically, in stubbornly mixed-up or hybrid nature of international legal ‘personality’ that those seeking to resist the process of international legal reproduction and its logic have often found their most powerful resources.
Rose Sydney Parfitt
Rose Sydney Parfitt is a Senior Lecturer at Kent Law School. Her research brings together texts, images and sounds – and traditions dedicated to analysing texts, images and sounds – with the aim of apprehending, understanding and responding more effectively to the role of international law, in the past and present, not just in ameliorating but also in constituting inequalities of wealth, power and pleasure. Her work in this area has been published widely, touching on a range of different contexts including fascist colonial architecture in Libya; the inbuilt historiography of the doctrine of sources; Italian Futurism, the First World War and contemporary fashion; international personality under the League of Nations; statehood and international recognition; the chronotope (in the Bakhtinian sense) employed by the new states at the Bandung Conference of 1955; Bolsonarismo, the far-right and the Global South, and others. Her current project, which examines the relationship between fascism and international law has been supported by grants from the Australian Research Council (2016-19), the Socio-Legal Studies Association (2019-20), and elsewhere. Her monograph, The Process of International Legal Reproduction: Inequality, Historiography, Resistance, was published by Cambridge University Press in January 2019.
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January 31
13:00 – 14:30


Lauterpacht Centre for International Law, Finley Library