Writing transnational history comes with its own set of unique requirements. It is challenging to construct a coherent narrative out of the numerous factors involved. A biographical approach is one possibility to operationalize research on transnational networks and institutions. Biographies reveal individuals’ assumptions and attitudes, help contextualize their debates and explain the historical change of norms in their local context.
This also applies to legal histories investigating interactions, entanglements and the circulation of legal knowledge across national borders. The history of international law is incomplete without transnational actors shaping it. Most prominently, recent scholarship has engaged with the question how émigré jurists (most of them Jewish) have influenced the development of international criminal and human rights law in the mid-twentieth century. This has opened up new perspectives on how the individual experience of exile and juridical concepts have influence each other.
Transnational actors were not only significant on the international level, but developed a domestic momentum as well. Transnational reform movements have influenced the discourse on national criminal law. Zooming in on the individuals who shaped these discussions in transnational settings helps to complicate narratives about the seemingly progressive juridification and humanisation of international relations. It reveals the actors’ complex and sometimes even competing interests and underlying ideas about law. This enables research analysing actors’ positions in structures of power as well as gender and race relations.
The workshop “Law in Transnational Spaces” on 19 and 20 March 2020, in Berlin invites junior researchers to critically engage with actor-centred approaches in transnational legal history, in particular biographies. It offers the opportunity to discuss research projects that use a biographical lens. More specifically, the following questions might be tackled in the papers:
- What methodological challenges result from a biographical approach to transnational legal history?
- Were transnational legal networks a resource for people who came from what was perceived as “periphery”, or did they manifest existing power dynamics?
- What influence did transnational networks have on women engaging in legal debates?
- What resources did émigré lawyers have to participate in transnational discussions and legal networks and shape the history of law?
The workshop is part of the research project “The London Moment”, funded by the Volkswagen-Stiftung, at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. Papers should be based on original material and 20 minutes in length. Accommodation during the workshop and travel expenses within Europe will be covered within reasonable limits. Interested scholars are invited to submit an abstract of 300 words and a short CV to firstname.lastname@example.org by 31 January 2020.