This Article brings a Tamil-speaking Chettiar widow and a Dutch scholar of international law - two seemingly disparate characters - together through a footnote. Set against the background of decolonizing South and Southeast Asia in the aftermath of World War Two, it follows the judgment in a little-known suit for recovery of debt, filed at a district-level civil court in Madras in British India, which escaped the attention of local legal practitioners, but made its way into an international law treatise compiled and written in Utrecht, twenty years later. Instead of using it to trace how South Asian judiciaries interpreted international law, the Article looks at why claims to international law were made by ordinary litigants like Chettiar women in everyday cases like debt settlements, and how they became “evidence” of state practice for international law. These intertwined itineraries of law, that take place against the Japanese occupation of Burma and the Dutch East Indies and the postwar reconstruction efforts in Rangoon, Madras and Batavia, show how jurisdictional claims made by ordinary litigants form an underappreciated archive for histories of international law. In talking about the creation and circulation of legal knowledges, this Article argues that this involves thinking about and writing from footnotes, postscripts and marginalia - and the lives that are intertwined in them.
Saturday, April 11, 2020
Ramnath: Intertwined Itineraries: Debt, Decolonization, and International Law in Post-World War II South Asia
Kalyani Ramnath (Harvard Univ. - Center for History and Economics) has published Intertwined Itineraries: Debt, Decolonization, and International Law in Post-World War II South Asia (Law and History Review, Vol. 38, no. 1, pp. 1-24, February 2020). Here's the abstract: