The Surrency Prize, named in honor of Erwin C. Surrency, a founding member and first president of the Society and for many years the editor of its former publication, the American Journal of Legal History, is awarded annually for the best article published in the Society’s journal, the Law and History Review, in the previous year.
2018 recipient: Natasha Wheatley “Spectral Legal Personality in Interwar International Law: On New Ways of Not Being a State,” Law and History Review 35 (August 2017): 753-757.
Committee citation: This article sheds important new light to on key question for international law: Who is a subject of international law? Focusing on the turbulent interwar period, Wheatley examines key juristic arguments and opinions as to when and how non-state entities might be rethought as subjects, rather than objects, of that law. Both theoretically sophisticated and methodologically innovative, this article tackles the question by way of an anthropology of international law’s fictional persons. Drawing on both published debates and archival sources – in both English and German – Wheatley focuses on what she labels ‘the conceptual process of birthing new subjects’. In striking prose (that itself employs illusion and figure to give life to this story) she brings to the fore the recurrent metaphors and analogies of the new interwar discourse – those groups and institutions who are likened to slaves, spectres, the unborn and embryos and the irregular, the temporary, the virtual, the suspended, the unfinished and the vacated. It is these, she persuasively argues, that play midwife to the birthing of the new subjects of international law. Importantly, Wheatley concludes that as late arrivals these new legal persons were coded by their prior absence – they could be embryonic, unfree or abnormal – but they all represented new ways of not being a state.The members of the Surrency Prize Committee were Cornelia Dayton (University of Connecticut); Alison LaCroix (University of Chicago); Kunal Parker (University of Miami); and Laurie Wood (Florida State University).
Congratulations to Professor Wheatley!