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date: 15 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter looks at debates about Asia in scholarship on the history and theory of international law. It also traces the evolution of concepts of sovereignty in the context of Asia’s colonial history, and more recent preoccupations with development. What counts as the ‘history and theory’ of international law is itself continuously changing and scholars must engage with new materials and issues. Possible new initiatives include deeper research on Asian traditions and concepts of rule and governance, justice, and order; approaching the history and theory of international law in Asia in global rather than regional terms; and turning to other disciplines—such as social/cultural anthropology—to develop new insights into the questions of governance and territory, and the powerful imaginaries of nationhood, sovereignty, and empire that animate the peoples of Asia, and that have not been entirely displaced by modern concepts of sovereignty and globalization. Examining these themes illuminates the important issues of how Asian states have attempted to innovate and use international law to further their own interests.

Keywords: international law history, Asia, international law theory, sovereignty, territory, India, China

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