The Local in the Universal: Social, Women’s, Labour and Radical Histories of International Law
The Interest Group on the History of International Law seeks abstracts for an Agora Proposal to be submitted to the European Society of International Law for its 2018 Conference on ‘International Law and Universality’ to be held 13–15 September 2018 in Manchester.
Universality’s flip side is the local and the particular. Locations are inescapable parts of any idea of universality. People are positioned in time, place, class, gender, race, ethnicity, indigeneity, and sexuality. These particulars formed familiar coordinates for locating different peoples within ideas of the universal; at the bottom of hierarchies — subsumed, excluded, ignored, erased.
The beginning of international legal history’s recent renaissance lay in exploring one assertion of universality — the liberal-democratic progressive narrative — and Europe as its location, and white male jurists as its particular. Later advances began to unpack the imperial, racial and class aspects of international law’s pasts, to understand how that universal spread to many localities. Some of the most recent and exciting historical projects have begun to draw our attention to the everyday, to materiality, objects, and archives beyond the legal, to tell personal, hidden and revealing histories of international law.
And yet, international legal history has so far been largely resistant to more radical forms of history that spurred so many of the main innovations in twentieth century historiography: social histories, women’s histories, labour histories, and histories of resistance and radicalism. Other themes at the 2018 ESIL Conference invite papers on universality and particularism’s histories at the juridical, conceptual and theoretical levels. This Agora seeks to expand that universe in the direction of something more local, personal and radical — to uncover histories that have been hidden within these longues durées and big trends.
Fitting with and interrogating the theme of universality, we seek papers that look for the local in the universal and the legal, from across the globe and from any period of historical inquiry. We are looking to share the hidden stories, archival gems, and accounts of everyday lives and movements that illuminate and contest the universal in new and powerful ways. It is particularly fitting that we do this in Manchester, a city that was one major birthplace of the industrial revolution, the labour movement, and the suffragette movement.
Issues arising within this theme might include, but are not limited to:
- The role of women and women’s movements in constructing, challenging and critiquing the ideas of universality in international law.
- Labour and international law: competing universals of solidarity and capitalism.
- Race, ethnicity, indigeneity, intersectionality and the stories of challenging, rethinking and repurposing the universal.
- Rebellions, radicalism and resistance: histories of popular debate, protests and discord over universality in law.
- Shifting the ‘turn to biography’ in international legal histories: introducing the field to new lives and new, untold stories.
- The significance of rural areas, cities, communities, migration and labour flows for rethinking law, the international, and the universal.
We encourage proposals from scholars in any discipline — legal or not — and at any stage of career. Selection will be based on scholarly merit and with regard to producing an engaging workshop, without prejudice to gender, seniority, language or geographical location.
Please direct any questions to Martin Clark (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Markus Beham (email@example.com).