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The Underworlds Series: Oceans as Sites of Global Dis/Ordering

When: Wednesday, October 11, 2023, 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM
Where: Online

School of Law, Centre for Law and Society in a Global Context, and LSE Law School logoAs part of the Underworlds series, this event focuses on oceans as sites of global dis/ordering.

Rather than concentrating only on how oceans are formally framed or regulated as objects of international legal ordering, this event foregrounds the patterns and imaginaries of global dis/ordering that thinking through the ocean can reveal. Which material historical conditions have shaped the current legal constitution of oceanic space? Which new legal and political temporalities, geographies, and subjectivities might ‘thinking oceanically’ generate? How are international law and the ocean co-constituted – through its specific spatial zones, its depths and bottoms, its vexing vents, and amphibious legalities? Which critical practices can enable us to think and act in unruly oceans – through its waves, marine mammals and blue legalities – as the ever-shifting terrain of violence, struggle, and political imagination?

The speakers

Surabhi Ranganathan is Professor of International Law at the University of Cambridge, and a fellow of King’s College, Cambridge. Educated in Delhi, Bangalore, New York, and Cambridge, she has also taught at Warwick and, as visiting professor, at the Graduate Institute, Geneva. Author of Strategically Created Treaty Conflicts and the Politics of International Law (CUP 2015), assistant editor of the Cambridge Companion to International Law, her writing has been published in the European Journal of International Law, the British Yearbook of International Law, the American Journal of International Law, the Journal of the History of International Law, and popular platforms such as the New York Times and The Dial. She is currently at work on a book and several essays on the history and politics of a changing ocean and assorted techno-utopian imaginaries, and on two major editorial projects: The Cambridge History of International Law in Asia, and The Battle for International Law in the Neoliberal Era. She has also recently co-edited a special issue of SAACLR on ‘Colonial Loot and Its Restitution’. Ranganathan is Editor-in-Chief of the Leiden Journal of International Law and Deputy Director of the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law. She was a fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg, Berlin for 2022-2023, a visiting fellow at the Center for History and Economics, Harvard in Spring 2021, and is part of the Aurora Centre, Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø.

Renisa Mawani is Canada Research Chair in Colonial Legal Histories and Professor of Sociology at the University of British Columbia, located on the unceded territories of the Musqueam (xʷməθkʷəy̓əm) peoples. From 2022-2025 she is a Global Professorial Fellow at the School of Law, Queen Mary University of London. Renisa is the author of Colonial Proximities (University of British Columbia Press, 2009) and Across Oceans of Law (Duke University Press, 2018), which was a finalist for the U.K. Socio-Legal Studies Association Theory and History Book Prize (2020) and winner of the Association of Asian American Studies Book Prize for Outstanding Contribution to History (2020). With Antoinette Burton, she is co-editor of Animalia: An Anti-Imperial Bestiary for Our Times (Duke University Press, 2020).

**Please note this is an online seminar and joining details will be sent the day before the event

Event Resources






The Series: Underworlds – Sites and Struggles of Global Dis/Ordering

Engagement with practices of global ordering is often guided towards specific locations and legacies: the sovereign state, the formal sources and standards of international law, the intricacies of global diplomacy, the historical juncture and its (anti-)heroes, the international palaces of hope in Geneva, New York, or The Hague. These explorations entail ideas of where power resides and where it is to be unmasked or undone – ideas implicitly grounded in modernist geographies, temporalities, and subjectivities. Starting from the limits of these familiar perspectives, this lecture and workshop series traces the multiple ways in which these sites, actors, and events are cabined, crossed, and cut apart by alternative material arteries, lineages, and languages of global dis/ordering.

The series takes as starting point that authority and order are not fixed properties of specific actors or institutions, but the result of ongoing material processes of ordering and world-making. As such, it traces unconventional forms and sites of global dis/ordering – from raw materials to projections of hope – as material, infrastructural, and discursive compositions that shape patterns of power. The encounter between old- and new materialist, Marxist and decolonial methodologies and modes of critique is one of the key objectives of this series. Its aim, however, is not only methodological: it aspires to inspire new ethical and political openings that attend to our inevitable complicity in taking part in these processes, and reveal new modes of resistance and refusal, of struggle and sociality. These interventions are not narrowly targeted at the old nemeses of critique – the state, the truth, the universal – but work from within both entrenched and emergent material sites and practices of dis/ordering: oceans, oil / coal, breath, debt, commons, frontier(s), waste, hope, wild / feral, vessels.

Find out about all the events in the series.

The series is convened by Marie Petersmann and Dimitri Van Den Meerssche and co-organised by QMUL (the Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences and the Centre for Law and Society in a Global Context) and the LSE Law School.

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