Monday, December 7, 2015

Call for Papers: Law between Global and Colonial: Techniques of Empire

The Erik Castrén Institute of International Law and Human Rights at the University of Helsinki has issued a call for papers for a conference on "Law between Global and Colonial: Techniques of Empire," to be held October 3-5, 2016. Here's the call:


“Law between Global and Colonial: Techniques of Empire”

University of Helsinki, (3-5 October 2016)

The Conference Law Between Global and Colonial: Techniques of Empire proposes to discuss the legal languages and techniques through which colonial powers ruled non-European territories and populations throughout the modern age. The aim of the Conference is to examine in detail the juridical practices and discourses of colonial powers when they exercised their supremacy over colonial subjects and disciplined them. Given the complexity and variety of these legal strategies and without neglecting the classical the study of “law of nature and nations”, we intend to move beyond it in order to explore a hybrid normative body consisting of ad-hoc colonial laws, commercial laws and domestic laws adapted to colonial contexts. What came to be called the “empire of free trade”, for instance, operated largely through a commercial law (sometimes, though not always called “lex mercatoria”) that possessed features of both international and domestic law.

Although the focus of the conference is historical, the interest feeding it lies in the present. With the great numbers of people moving about in Europe, Asia and Africa as migrants, guest workers, refugees and displaced persons, territorial states have often used methods and techniques that resemble those with which colonial populations once were treated. With research showing a sharp rise in world inequality, the conference poses the question whether legislative techniques and institutions inherited from the imperial past, once again see the light of day in the present.

How was the “law of nations” understood when it was used for imperial purposes? Would domestic laws apply to colonial expansion? What laws might govern the groups concerned – indigenous population, settlers, slaves, indentured servants, subjects of third nations? What was the role of the idiom of international law in Europe’s colonial expansion? To what extent was colonial rule organised by domestic laws of a special character? How did special colonial laws and the “law of nature and nations” relate to each other? To what extent did any of these laws open an avenue to contesting colonial governance? How far did such techniques extend beyond the end of the period of formal colonialism and even decolonization?

To answer such questions, the relations between global and domestic laws in imperial expansion and colonial governance ought to be studied.

Keynote speakers: Lauren Benton, Isabel. V. Hull, Luigi Nuzzo

The conference will close the four and a half-year period of the Finnish Academy research project on “International Law, Religion and Empire” at the Erik Castrén Institute of International Law and Human Rights, University of Helsinki. Members: Martti Koskenniemi, Paolo Amorosa, Mónica García-Salmones, Manuel Jimenez and Walter Rech.

Interested participants should submit an abstract of no more than 600 words, in Word format accompanied by a brief (2-3 sentences) scholarly biography by March 1st, 2016 to both Mónica García-Salmones ( and Paolo Amorosa (

Accepted participants will be required to submit full papers, in Word format, of no more than 8000 words by August 31st, 2016.

The conveners will cover meals for the duration of the conference for accepted participants. Travel and accommodation expenses are to be met by the participants.

Deadlines: Submission of Abstracts March 1st, 2016

Authors of accepted proposals will be notified by June 1st, 2016

Final papers must be submitted by August 31st, 2016