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The seabed and the South: from stock stories to new histories of international lawmaking

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Ranganathan, Surabhi 


jats:pCentring the career of Cameroonian diplomat Paul Bamela Engo during the negotiation of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, this article makes a methodological intervention in the historiography of multilateral treaty-making. It reads through and against the grain of dominant narratives of oceanic constitution-making, and offers counter-narratives that serve as conceptual and mobilizational resources in contemporary struggles. It examines how the ‘stock story’ of the emergence of the resource regime for seabed minerals as the common heritage of mankind erases the radical alternatives that were proposed by Third World actors and their efforts to write them into law, and sorts these actors into trope-laden categories of ‘extremist’ and ‘moderate’. Against this, and building on critical race theorist Richard Delgado’s exploration of counterstorytelling, this article traces histories that position Third World diplomats and lawyers as intellectual innovators and rival worldmakers. Extending the field of international intellectual history, and examining international lawmaking conferences as a political form, these histories link UNCLOS to wider anticolonial and worldmaking projects. Connecting analyses at multiple spatial and temporal scales, such histories also offer an empirically-grounded approach to the agency and structural constraints of Third World actors negotiating international legal orders, and illuminate international lawmaking as a promising site for global history.</jats:p>



4803 International and Comparative Law, 48 Law and Legal Studies

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Journal of Human Rights and the Environment

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Edward Elgar Publishing
The paper was completed during a fellowship at the Wissenschaftskolleg, Berlin.

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2023-11-27 14:39:12
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2023-09-11 23:30:32
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