Daniel Litwin, who is presently the Legal Adviser to Judge Sir Christopher Greenwood at the Iran- United States Claims Tribunal, will give a presentation titled “The Ideology of Material Space in International Adjudication”.
The multiplication of international courts and tribunals, and in particular the rise of international arbitration, has brought about a multiplication of the spaces where international adjudication operates. International courts and tribunals are now as likely to be seated in homogenous office buildings in Washington or Singapore as they are in the grand palaces of the The Hague or Geneva. The significance of this disjuncture in the material fabric of international adjudication, what Daniel terms its ‘spatial fragmentation’, has been left unexamined. Its nature also raises important questions as to the broader propensity of these activities to be exclusively situated in urban spaces at a time of increasing polarization between the urban and non-urban.
With these developments in mind, Daniel will examine the way these spaces (and their ideological content) are conjoined with the operation of international law. How do they represent and influence outcomes and practices in international legal thinking and decision-making? Put more bluntly, is there a link between ideational structures (the ‘how’) and material space (the ‘where’)? In raising these questions, Daniel will attempt to move away from the way international adjudication is usually examined as an operation lived and scaled to an abstracted a-spatial plane. This negation of spatial reality tends towards approaches that overstate the textual output of international courts and tribunals.
Turning to space and the associated literature in critical geography or sociology opens several new lines of inquiry. For example, it is possible to contrast the visual grandeur and overt (and now contested) politics of spaces like the Peace Palace with the sobriety of the non-descript offices where international arbitration disputes are decided. The latter spaces appear as monotonous and easily replicable cubes that serve to advance a strictly functionalist aesthetic. They eloquently assert the dominance of technical specialization and expertise and its attempts to buttress its authority through the appearance of neutrality. In one reading, this triumph of homogenous space can serve to effectively obfuscate the politics underlying the technical vocabularies deployed by international adjudicators.
These lines of inquiry raise significant questions in view of the growing resistance to international courts and tribunals. For one, can we preserve the praxis of international law, its particular values and identity, if its spaces are assimilated to those produced for global capital? Is profound change and reform of international adjudication possible without a transformation in material space.
We’re looking forward to seeing you there, as well as the ensuing discussions. The event is open to both students and staff without RSVP.