Legal Pluralism in Asia and Global Histories of International Law(s)
Location: S010, Tsai Auditorium, CGIS South, 1730 Cambridge St., Cambridge, MA
Sponsor: Harvard University Asia Center
The history of international law has been limited by its eurocentrism and teleological vision of history. In the light of the recent developments of the scholarship on global history of international law, ‘Legal Pluralism in Asia and Histories of International Law(s)’ takes a broad and inclusive approach to international law(s) and its histories. The point of departure of this conference is that there co-existed several regional systems or traditions of international law throughout history, prior to the emergence of a global system of international law. The latter is situated near the end of the 19th century.
Studies on the history of international law in Asia have focused primarily on the Western encounter, especially during the nineteenth century. While there is a rich area studies-literature which describes the social and political evolution in East Asia before Western models arrived, the research on these processes from a genuinely legal and norm-theoretical perspective is by far less developed. The aim of this conference is to gather scholars that describe and analyze inter-polity relations in Asia without using a particular model of the law as a point of reference, allowing to give voice to a legal plurality.
Taking research on global legal history as a vantage point, the understanding of international law is highly inclusive and pluralist. This is expressed in the notion of inter-polity law which aims at going beyond a reductionist understanding of international law that is state centred and prioritizing particular actors. The non-reductionist understanding of inter-polity law instead, includes all kinds of normative orders which integrate separate polities, and which regulate their relations by rules and practices which are understood as normatively binding.