Write On! Call for Papers on ‘International Law’s Objects: Emergence, Encounter and Erasure through Object and Image’ (deadline 18 April)

HMS Endeavour off the coast of New Holland, by Samuel Atkins c.1794. [British Royal Navy vessel commanded by James Cook on his voyage to Australia and New Zealand]


Dr. Jessie Hohmann (Queen Mary University of London) and Dr. Daniel Joyce (University of New South Wales) invite proposals for contributions to an edited book on International Law’s Objects: Emergence, Encounter and Erasure through Object and Image. They write: “The contributions are short and creative.  We hope that the project will open up some innovative ways to think about international law, but also that it will provide a practical resource for teachers.  We plan to publish the selected contributions with Oxford University Press following a conference in the first part of 2016.”

AIMS AND SCOPE OF THE PROJECT

The study of international law is highly text based. Whether as practice, scholarship or pedagogy, the discipline of international law both relies on and produces a wealth of written material. Cases, treaties, and volumes of academic writing are the legal sources through which most of us working in international law relate to the subject, and, at times we might come to feel that these texts are our major project and output.

Yet international law has a rich existence in the world. International law is often developed, conveyed and authorised through objects or images. From the symbolic (the regalia of the head of state and the symbols of sovereignty), to the mundane (a can of dolphin-safe tuna certified as complying with international trade standards), international legal authority can be found in the objects around us. Similarly, the practice of international law often relies on material objects or images, both as evidence (satellite images, bones of the victims of mass atrocities) and to found authority (for instance, maps and charts).

Motivating this project are three questions:

  • First, what might studying international law through objects reveal? What might objects, rather than texts, tell us about sources, recognition of states, construction of territory, law of the sea, or international human rights law?
  • Second, what might this scholarly undertaking reveal about the objects – as aims or projects – of international law? How do objects reveal, or perhaps mask, these aims, and what does this tell us about the reasons some (physical or material) objects are foregrounded, and others hidden or ignored?
  • Third, which objects will be selected? We anticipate a no doubt eclectic but illuminating collection, which points to objects made central, but also objects disclaimed, by international law. Moreover, the project will result in a fascinating artefact (itself an object) of the preoccupations of the profession at this moment in time.

There are various ways one might begin to think about international law through objects. These categories are offered provisionally, and are in no sense intended to constrain the imagination of contributors:

  • The first is those objects which are used routinely in the study and practice of international law. These include treaties and diplomatic cables for instance. These are normally rendered in text but represent important objects of interest in their own right. An extension of this category, also routinely used in international law scholarship and practice, are maps.
  • A second category might be those ritual objects that seek to convey the power and authority of international law though their symbolic weight. Such objects might include, for example, the flag planted by Captain Cook to claim the territory now known as Australia, the gavel used in the Nuremberg trials, or the Hague Peace Palace itself.

Continue reading