The Terrain of Sovereignty: Transnational, Intimate

Saturday, January 9, 2016: 2:30 PM
Grand Ballroom C (Hilton Atlanta)
Brian Connolly, Institute for Advanced Study
The transnational has come to mark both the present and the normative future of the discipline of history.  This emphasis on the extranational has, of course, opened up a variety of new ways of thinking about history, but it has also become an uninterrogated norm, with more than one scholar arguing that it takes us beyond more artificial frames like the nation-state. In this paper I will discuss the history of sovereignty – a marker of the nation-state par excellence – in the age of the transnational.  To do so, I argue that the transnational does not provide access to a more accurate truth once obscured by the artificiality of the nation-state.  Rather, following from Louis Althussuer’s remarks in Reading Capital on the “terrain” of reading, I argue that the transnational is a new terrain of reading history generally, and the history of sovereignty in particular – a terrain made possible by and thus implicated in contemporary relations of globalization and the waning of nation-state sovereignty.  Understanding the terrain of reading, Althusser writes, “opens the way to an understanding of the determination of the visible as visible, and conjointly, of the invisible as invisible, and of the organic link binding the invisible to the visible.” In order to think sovereignty transnationally (and as a critical intervention, via the history of sovereignty, into defining transnational history), I turn to nineteenth century treatises on international law, particularly those written by US legists like Joseph Story and Henry Wheaton, in order to track the history of sovereignty in the emergence of an international legal order. Paradoxically, I argue that at the core of defining national sovereignty in an international legal order was how to articulate transnational forms of intimacy such as marriage and kinship.
Previous Presentation | Next Presentation >>