Events Calendar
Oct 16
18:00 - 19:00
Postmodernism and the Future of International Law
CeCIL Speaker Nights

A Kent Centre for Critical International Law (CeCIL) Speaker Night with Matthew Nicholson (Durham University)

In this talk Matthew will offer an overview of a current book project. The book seeks to capture the essential nature – what literary and cultural theorist Fredric Jameson (in Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, p6) refers to as the 'dominant cultural logic' – of contemporary international legal thought and practice. Contemporary international law is, it will be argued, culturally postmodern – that is, it comes after, and is defined in relation to, an earlier, 'modern' moment or style. The earlier 'modern' was, from the postmodern perspective, a time of creativity and originality, a period when (according to Jameson, Postmodernism, p17) 'unique personalit[ies] and individual[s] … generat[ed their] own unique vision[s] of the world … forg[ing their] own unique, unmistakable style[s]'. This, in international law, was the age of Kelsen and Lauterpacht, of Bluntschli and Scelle, of Verdross and Fitzmaurice, of McDougal and Lasswell – a pre- and post-World War II age of projects, creativity and world-building.The postmodern, by contrast, is defined by pastiche – 'the imitation of a peculiar or unique, idiosyncratic style, the wearing of a linguistic mask, speech in a dead language … blank parody, parody that has lost its sense of humour' (Jameson, Postmodernism, p5)  – and nostalgia, manifested in a 'desire to return to [an] older period and to live its strange old aesthetic artefacts through once again' (Jameson, Postmodernism, p8). The fact that international law still looks back to 'Lauterpacht and …' is testament to the post-modernity of international law for, as Jameson (in Postmodernism, at pp 17-18) puts it, 'the producers of culture have nowhere to turn but to the past: the imitation of dead styles, speech through all the masks and voices stored up in the imaginary museum of a now global culture.'

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Moot Room,
Wigoder Law Building
United Kingdom
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Contact: CeCIL
Kent Law School


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