Order and Contestation in Islamic International Law and International Relations



This interdisciplinary project explores Islamic legal narratives and practices of international law as well as the complex political structures characterizing the Arab-Muslim world, especially in the territories of the (former) Ottoman Empire. In its international legal prong, the project specifically examines the ways in which scholars of the Arab world have embraced or rejected international law. The project thereby critically engages and adds to the increasing stream of scholarship committed to making visible the voices, interests, defeats and victories of non-Western international lawyers. Here, the main goal will be to foster intensified engagement with Muslim thought and practice of Islamic international law. It will do so not by taking the ‘Arab’, the ‘Muslim’ and the ‘Islamic’ as givens, but as concepts and vocabularies in need of contextualization, to be explored within the political, religious and economic struggles – be it for empire or resistance – within which they are deployed. From the perspective of International Relations, the project will call attention to the historical particularity of international relations in the Middle East. It examines the way in which political alliances stretch beyond national borders, include governments and non-state movements alike, and escape reductions to either ‘modern’ state formation and geopolitics or to ‘traditional’ sectarian strife. Political conflict and alignment in the region are products of complex interactions between Islamic histories and doctrines of oppression, rule, and resistance, on the one hand, and modernized concepts and practices of state and politics, on the other. The disciplinary and methodological plurality reflected in this project contributes to research that is self-confidently positioned at the crossroads of different academic perspectives and speaks to public interest in Islamic international law and regional politics that transcends disciplinary boundaries.

This research has implications for the following discourses:

It seeks to study Arab and Islamic narratives of international law and politics as emerging out of historic encounters of empires and religions.
It adds to non-European legal narratives towards a global history of international law and international relations.
It offers insights, from a historical perspective, into the
role of "regions" in international law and relations, a hotly debated topic today as
many argue for the "return of geopolitics". To what extent do regional
institutions, laws and boundaries shape international law and politics? Where does
the relevance of regions as an area of historical study lie, compared
with, for instance, the global, the national or the local? Where does “regionalization” obstruct our thinking of a comprehensive approach to international law by segregating histories, and thereby overemphasizing lines of encounters and conflict or downplaying subregional confrontations?

This collaborative effort of scholars of diverse academic disciplines (law, political science, history, philosophy and Islamic studies) will stimulate new debates across boundaries which have the potential to generate a transformative impact on the field of Global Legal History in general, and the History of (Islamic) International Law in particular. It also promises to advance the International Relations debate on the specificities of geopolitics, alliances, and state formation in the current Middle East.
StatusEj startat