Monday, November 24, 2008
Romero on Region, Race, Scale and a Subnational Legal History
Posted by Mary L. Dudziak
Bound Between & Beyond the Borderlands: Region, Race, Scale and a Subnational Legal History is a recent essay by Tom Romero II, Hamline University School of Law. It appeared in a symposium issue of the Oregon Review of International Law (2007). Here's the abstract: This essay untangles the relationship between region, race, and scale in surfacing the legal past resulting from interactions between variant cultures in the history of the American West. While the analysis is necessarily informed by geographic, jurisdictional, and even scholarly scales, the scale I'm most concerned with exists at the level of the individual and the group. In this regard, this essay is centrally rooted in surfacing the legal history of subaltern cosmopolitan legalities in a global colonial and post-colonial world. Precisely because "subaltern cosmopolitan legality operates by definition across scales," the concept highlights the variety of ways in which interdependent legal technologies of international, national, and local scope have historically worked to subordinate and thereby submerge individuals and groups from a legal process. The analysis also assesses how the inconsistent and inefficient policing of these jurisdictional boundaries created gaps, fissures, and failures where subalterns could simultaneously exercise his or her agency. Accordingly, I utilize the term "subnational citizen" to describe more accurately the determinative role laws play in the mutually constitutive process of submersion and legal resistance. Whereas "subaltern cosmopolitan legality" encompasses legal, illegal, and extra-legal forms, the term "subnational citizen" is meant to highlight in particular distinct legal claims informed by and shaped between, as well as across, jurisdictional scales. Simply, jurisdictional scale allowed the subaltern to emerge, at discrete points, as the "subnational citizen." For this very reason, this analysis sheds light on how legal historians can closely document the protean ways that subnational citizens themselves developed their own strategies of legal resistance that in turn, helped to define, refine, and at times transform national and international law and legal norms.