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IDSEMUG 2039 - International Law, Racial Capitalism and the Black Atlantic: Birthing 'the Human'

‘We are black, it is true, but tell us gentleman, you who are so judicious, what is the law that says that the black man must belong to and be the property of the white man?’ With these words, Toussaint Louverture’s 1791 Haitian declaration (To Live Free and Die) judiciously centers the intricate interdependence of the written and unwritten law of race. The declaration insists on the contradiction at the heart of the notion of the free and rights-bearing ‘human’ that was being heralded on both sides of the Black Atlantic in what some described as ‘the age of liberty’. This class will take up Toussaint's question and focus on notions of the human that emerge in international law’s imbrication with racial capitalism in the 'early-modern' Atlantic world. Using key moments in the history of international law to anchor our conversation, we will probe the contours of the global order that unfolds through the legal architecture of colonialism, slavery and trade. Our readings will foreground legal scholars such as Anthony Anghie, Bhupinder Chimni, Susan Marks, Robert Knox, Cheryll Harris and Jenny Martinez. We will also read historians and social theorists such as Eric Williams, Cedric Robinson, Lisa Lowe, Stephanie Smallwood, Sven Beckert, Lauren Benton, Siba Grovogui, Saidiya Hartman and Walter Johnson. Class Notes: Course meets during the first seven weeks of the semester, First Class: January 29; Last Class: March 11. Add Consent: Department Consent Required.
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Spring 2021, Spring 2020
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