Towards a History of the Decolonization of International Law. An Introduction to the Special Issue (Natasha Wheatly & Samuel Moyn)
The High Tide of Anticolonial Legalism (Samuel Moyn)
For a time in the 1960s it seemed as if one domain in which the global south’s enthusiastic struggle to arrogate the mantle of universalism as an exercise in “worldmaking” was the transformation of international law. Though this struggle was ultimately circumvented by great power politics and newer forms of international law and organization, it was a crucial moment. The introductory prosopographical survey that follows seeks to recapture the consensus of a set of northern and southern international lawyers in the 1960s who saw potential in the project of transforming their field to register the aims of a new epoch – the aims of postcolonial states.
The Ricardian State: Carlos Calvo and Latin America’s Ambivalent Origin Story for the Age of Decolonization (Teresa Davis)
This article explores Latin America’s place in discussions about decolonization through the work of the Argentine international lawyer Carlos Calvo. It argues that while Calvo was an early proponent of Latin American sovereignty and a subtle critic of European empires, he worked within a framework that differed remarkably from that of post-World War II decolonization struggles. Most notably, Calvo’s defense of Latin American sovereignty was rooted in a liberal anti-imperialism which emphasized the important role of Latin American states as the bulwarks of free markets rather than the role of the state in curtailing markets in favor of national development. In the final section of this article I suggest some ways in which highlighting the history of liberal anti-imperialism might help reframe some of the conundrums present in recent histories of the more renowned era of Asian and African decolonization.
Building the Nation: Sovereignty and International Law in the Decolonisation of South Asia (Priyasha Saksena)
The position of the territorially sovereign nation-state as the fundamental building block of the contemporary world order has come under increasing challenge. Historians have long focused on social, cultural, economic, and technological factors to examine the constructed nature of the nation-state. In this article, I explore the role of law, and specifically the concept of sovereignty, in the creation of the unified spatial entity constituting the nation-state. I focus in particular on the decolonisation of South Asia and analyse legal arguments made in two international disputes (over Hyderabad and the river Indus) to understand the process through which the Indian nation-state came into being.
Afro-Asian Jurists and the Quest to Modernise the International Protection of Foreign-Owned Property, 1955–1975 (Idriss Paul-Armand Fofana)
In the two decades following the 1955 Asian African Conference in Bandung, Asian and African jurists sought to reshape international law to better incorporate the aspirations of formerly colonised peoples. The Asian-African Legal Consultative Committee (AALCC), founded one year after the Bandung Conference, helped formulate a common Afro-Asian and Third World international legal agenda by bringing together jurists and ideologically diverse Asian and African governments while collaborating with UN institutions working to codify and develop international law. The AALCC’s work and the contemporaneous writings of African and Asian jurists reveal a shared ambition to weaken the international protection of foreign-owned property by pursuing a legal agenda anchored in the structure and principles of the post-World War II international legal system. The Afro-Asian international legal agenda combined efforts to eliminate pre-war rules incompatible with the foundational principles of the UN Charter while elaborating the content of these principles through UN institutions.
Erasing the Marks of Domination: Economic Sovereignty, Decolonization, and International Lawmaking in the 1950s and 1960s (Christopher Dietrich)
This article tells a legal and intellectual history of oil and decolonization in the 1950s and 1960s through the projects of international institutions including the UN Permanent Sovereignty Commission and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and the work of anti-colonial lawyers Hasan Zakariya and Nicolas Sarkis. It examines the ideas and infrastructure of decolonization as they related to the question of how international law could be used to win economic sovereignty.
Hydrocarbon Humanitarianism: Ibrahim Shihata, ‘Oil Aid’, and Resource Sovereignty (Umut Öszu)
This article revisits Ibrahim Shihata’s role in developing the financial aid policies of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) after the formal inauguration of the New International Economic Order project (NIEO) in 1974. As director of the OPEC Special Fund, subsequently the OPEC Fund for International Development, after its establishment in 1976, Shihata spearheaded the development of the organization’s aid policies. He also defended the NIEO as a set of sensible reform measures for redistributing wealth, resources, and technology. This article contends that Shihata’s vigorous defence of OPEC’s aid record aimed to demonstrate that the NIEO – an enterprise OPEC supported – involved not simply structural reform of the inter-state system but direct engagement with questions of intra-state distribution, and that OPEC aid was designed partly to keep the ‘Third World bloc’ from disintegrating due to the growing distance between oil-producing and non-oil-producing countries.
Decolonization and International Law: Putting the Ocean on the Map (Surabhi Ranganathan) (OPEN ACCESS)
From the middle of the twentieth century onwards, the order of the ocean has changed as remarkably as that of land. Yet, developments in the law of the sea usually receive less prominent consideration in international or global histories of this period. In this short essay, I examine firstly the ways in which literatures in history and international law engage, or not, with the ordering of the ocean during, and due to, decolonization. Secondly, I suggest that the making of the law of the sea offers rich insights into the contingencies, currents, and counter-currents of the decolonization moment. Among other things it reveals fluid political geographies, epistemic churn, and alternative models for the extraction and distribution of natural resources. The flickerings and foreclosures of the various possibilities of the decolonization moment are well worth further study, especially as unsettling our understandings of oceanic lines becomes necessary in the present times.
'What, Then, of the Land’?: Territoriality, International Law, and the Republic of New Afrika (Sam Klug)
This article charts how African American appeals to international law shifted away from a politics of petition to a politics of sovereignty with the growing influence of postcolonial states in international society and the UN’s recognition of a right to self-determination. Whereas earlier efforts by African-descended peoples in the Americas to gain a hearing before international bodies often required pushing the boundaries of international legal personality to include entities other than states, in the late 1960s and early 1970s a black nationalist group called the Republic of New Afrika (RNA) pursued international subjectivity in its traditional and fullest form: as a sovereign state. Examining the writings of RNA leaders, especially Imari Obadele, this article explores how the group’s claims for territory, reparations, and international subjectivity relied on international legal discourse about plebiscites, self-determination, and national development
Indigenizing Self-Determination at the United Nations: Reparative Progress in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Miranda Johnson)
When the United Nations General Assembly passed the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007, it introduced into the international legal lexicon a new dimension to the concept of self-determination. The declaration emphasizes indigenous peoples’ distinctive rights to land, culture, language, and collective identity. It does not propose political independence or sovereign statehood, instead insisting on indigenous peoples’ equal rights of citizenship within existing nation-states. The distinct dimension of self-determination that the declaration introduces is one that speaks of indigenous peoples’ particular colonial histories of dispossession and the restoration of their rights and identities in the present, but without disrupting the political continuity of the states that surround them. It is reparative rather than revolutionary. In this article, I examine the construction and contestation of an indigenous right to self-determination both in relation to earlier definitions, and among and between the peoples and states who drafted the declaration.
- Islamic Law of the Sea: Freedom of Navigation and Passage Rights in Islamic Thought, written by Hassan S. Khalilieh (Fahad Ahmad Bishara)
- Human Shields: A History of People in the Line of Fire , written by Neve Gordon and Nicola Perugini (Emily Crawford)
- A History of International Law in Italy, edited by Giulio Bartolini (Elisabetta Fiocchi Malaspina)