On September 28-29, 2017, the Leibniz-Institut für Geschichte und Kultur des östlichen Europa (GWZO) will hold a conference on “Institutions and International Law in Eastern Europe,” in Leipzig. The program is here. Here’s the idea:
International law is enjoying increasing popularity among historians of global and interna-tional affairs, due to a re-reading of legal norms and rules that questions a state-centered approach. Instead of seeing law as an outcome of state behavior, recent scholarship has ex-amined the transnational character of law and legal communities, and the oftentimes com-plex negotiation processes that precede the codification and subsequent ratification of in-ternational conventions. This perspective aligns with the focus on border-crossing relations and on professional and nonstate actors and institutions that has become essential to global and international history. Moreover, connections forged between the history of internation-al law and discussions of the limits of legal universalism have increased the legal dimension’s relevance for historians of empire and decolonization. Encircling notions of hegemony, im-perialism, and civilization, and scrutinizing the role of international law in imperial and civiliz-ing missions, this strand of research has given rise to regional histories of international law. Scholars have begun to explore the relationship between legal and regional developments by asking how international law has been tailored to serve specific regional interests, prob-lems, or conflicts. This approach complements the focus on the law’s imperial bias and acknowledges the entanglement of legal and political agendas while also emphasizing the agency of regional actors. It also concedes that regional appropriations of international law could serve these actors’ own agendas or be a vehicle for emancipation.
The conference unites research on the history of international law with studies on Eastern Europe to investigate the controversial role of international law in the complex and conten-tious reordering of the region since the Congress of Vienna. The conference proposes that the extraordinary density of political, social and ethnic conflicts and the decades-long strug-gles over territorial boundaries in Eastern Europe have left clear traces in international law. More specifically, it addresses these issues through the lens of international institutions, which offer a starting point from which to identify topics; single out involved states, groups, and transnational actors from East Central and Eastern Europe; and reveal how regional con-stellations were universalized in the process of negotiating and implementing international norms and rules.