Political Authority and the International

Spectral Legal Personality in Interwar International Law: On New Ways of Not Being a State

Between the two world wars, international legal personality emerged as a central and pressing question for research and analysis. Scholars pointed to a range of non-sovereigns — including individuals, minorities and mandate territories — that seemed to have acquired some sort of standing in international law, thereby undermining the state’s stranglehold on international personality. Yet most jurists maintained that these new or would-be subjects lacked full capacity. This paper recovers the analogies, typologies, and metaphors that interwar jurists employed to theorize these new legal persons and their semi-presence, or qualified capacity, in international law. In reaching for correlates such as ghosts, slaves, and unborn children, interwar jurists turned the jurisprudence of international personality into a netherworld of international law, populated with a catalogue of legal archetypes that straddled the line between legal being and non-being. In exploring the imagined community of interwar international law, ‘Spectral Legal Personality’ experiments with the possibility of an anthropology of international law’s fictional persons.

Dr Natasha WheatleyDr. Natasha Wheatley, an historian of Central European and international history, is ARC Postdoctoral Fellow in the Laureate Research Program in International History at the University of Sydney. She completed her PhD in the Department of History at Columbia University in 2015, and is currently at work on a book project entitled The Temporal Life of States: Sovereignty, Legal Knowledge, and the Archive of Empire in Central Europe. Her article, ‘Mandatory Interpretation: Legal Hermeneutics and the New International Order in Arab and Jewish Petitions to the League of Nations’ appeared in Past and Present in May 2015, and a volume co-edited with Dan Edelstein and Stefanos Geroulanos, Power and Time, is forthcoming with University of Chicago Press.

4.00pm Thursday 22 September 2016
Seminar Room, Level 4 Forgan Smith Tower,
University of Queensland, St Lucia
For further information, please contact iash@uq.edu.au or 07 334 69492


Seminar Room, Level 4 Forgan Smith Tower (Building #1)