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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Research Seminar - Dr Maia Pal, Oxford Brookes University
Room S2.12 Law School, Social Sciences Building

'Jurisdictional accumulation: towards non-Eurocentric histories of early modern European empires'

Abstract: This presentation will outline the central argument of a work-in-progress monograph - Jurisdictional Accumulation: An Early Modern History of Law, Empires and Capital. Jurisdictional accumulation is a useful concept to account for various forms of early modern 'extraterritoriality'. It helps provide a more useful narrative of early modern international relations based on the process of jurisdiction, rather than territorial sovereignty or capitalism, while developing a Political Marxist and non-Eurocentric methodology.

Legal histories of extraterritoriality have largely focused upon its various manifestations in the 'semi-sovereign' states and colonies of the nineteenth century. However, the concept of extraterritoriality has also been used in connection with early modern legal practices such as capitulations and other arrangements of shared sovereignty or privileges. This talk examines the term 'extraterritoriality' and the various challenges in using the concept transhistorically and universally. The main dangers - reproducing a Eurocentric and presentist history of international relations - justify a search for an alternative concept.

This search is driven by the need to account for the specificities of early modern empires and establish their connection to various - and often local - jurisdictional strategies, as means to expand imperial authority in a world not yet exclusively defined. However, methodologically, focusing on local or internal jurisdictional strategies often, but not necessarily, 'brings back' the role of European actors, concepts and institutions as central to international history - in the few cases where they have been successfully pushed to the background. It can also be understood to go counter to more 'globalist' approaches. Notwithstanding, it is argued that this renewed yet alternative focus on jurisdictional accumulation in European empires is necessary to the growing efforts to develop non-Eurocentric histories of international law and international relations.