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December 16, 2013

Prof. Karima Bennoune to Deliver Guest Lecture in Middle East/South Asia Studies

Please note new date below.

Professor Karima Bennoune will deliver a guest lecture on February 10 in the Department of Middle East/South Asia Studies at UC Davis. The public lecture is titled, "Sidi Bouzid Blues and the Green Wave: Journeys through the Arab Spring and Fall."

July 13, 2013

New Book: The Electronic Silk Road, by Anupam Chander

Yale University Press has just published The Electronic Silk Road: How the Web Binds the World Together in Commerce. The book has been hailed as a "tour de force" by leading trade economist Jagdish Bhagwati of Columbia University, a "must read" by Senator Chris Coons, and "engaging" and "important" by Ricardo Ramírez-Hernández, Chair of the Appellate Body, World Trade Organization.

The hardcover is available from Amazon here, as is a Kindle version.

Former World Trade Organization Director-General Michael Moore, currently New Zealand's Ambassador to the United States, tweeted: "What am I reading? "The Electronic Silk Road" by @AnupamChander explains essential issues for modern trade agenda."

The book has received extensive advance praise from key figures in international law and economics.

  • "An extraordinarily lucid and colorful description of the way cybertrade is changing global commerce -- and global society. Chander proposes realistic legal arrangements that can secure the Web’s benefits and avert its perils. This is an important book."—Michael Reisman, Yale Law School
  • "The world of commerce has changed for services. A masterly analysis of the implications of this development, this book is a tour de force."— Jagdish Bhagwati, University Professor, Columbia University
  • “A must read for those interested in globalization in the information age and the public policy challenges, opportunities, and pitfalls that will result. Anupam Chander offers an insightful primer on international cyberlaw and a thoughtful set of proposals for adapting to a changed world.” —Chris Coons, United States Senator
  • “This engaging book makes a powerful argument for embracing trade, without displacing law, along the new digital trade routes. Indeed, it recognizes law as crucial to promoting both trade and consumer protection. This is an important contribution to thinking about the international legal order.”—Ricardo Ramírez-Hernández, Chair of the Appellate Body, World Trade Organization
  • “Chander examines how international trade is ordering human rights and free expression in the digital age. Virtual borders and transnational corporations are here to stay, and Chander’s notion of ‘net-work’ offers us a sobering analysis of the dangers, and the possibilities.”—Deji Olukotun, PEN American Center
  • “Chander accentuates what is often forgotten--the importance of law underlying the digital evolution. Highly readable and enjoyable, The Electronic Silk Road is a piece of sound intellectual work, which is handsomely written.”—Mira Burri, University of Bern
  • “Anupam Chander takes us on a fascinating journey, raising provocative questions on how to balance competing global and local interests when managing new trade dynamics. Anyone interested in the digital transformation of commerce should consider carefully Chander’s insights.”—Mark Wu, Harvard Law School

The Electronic Silk Road

May 10, 2012

Madhavi Sunder's Important New Book Now Available for Pre-Order

Most scholarship on intellectual property considers this law from the standpoint of law and economics. Under this conventional wisdom, intellectual property is simply a tool for promoting innovative products, from iPods to R2D2. In this highly original book Madhavi Sunder calls for a richer understanding of intellectual property law’s effects on social and cultural life. Intellectual property does more than incentivize the production of more goods. This law fundamentally affects the ability of citizens to live a good life. Intellectual property law governs the abilities of human beings to make and share culture, and to profit from this enterprise in a global Knowledge economy. This book turns to social and cultural theory to more fully explore the deep connections between cultural production and human freedom.

Should be available on May 21, 2012--Order here.


March 24, 2012

Rural Women and the Limits of Law: Reflections on CSW 56

The United Nations 56th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW 56) featured as its priority theme this year "the empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication, development and current challenges."  This focus on rural women is long overdue, given that rural women comprise a quarter of the world's population.  Further, women provide 43% of the world's agricultural labor, and they produce half of the world's food for direct consumption.  In fact, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) discovered some time ago that women--referred to by many as the "architects of food security"--are key agents of development.  One reason for this is that when women and girls receive income, they reinvest 90% of it in their families.  In spite of their transformative potential to reduce hunger and poverty, women own less than 2% of land worldwide and they receive less than 10% of available credit.

As one whose scholarship focuses on rural livelihoods in both the United States and abroad, I was pleased to attend three days of the two-week CSW 56 event (February 27-March 9) as an observer for the American Society of International Law. As a former gender consultant for the United Nations, I was prepared for some of what I saw (e.g., bureaucracy), but the experience also held a few surprises. One thing that intrigued me about the “Session”—which is not a session at all but a dizzying array of “high-level round tables” and other meetings, panel discussions, “side events,” and “parallel events”—is that discussion of law was relatively absent. Furthermore, relatively little of the substance of these gatherings focused on rural women in a way that went beyond adding the modifier “rural” to whatever issue was being discussed. Rather than engaging with the circumstances that often distinguish rural women’s lives from those of their urban counterparts, many of the sessions seemed merely to “add rural women and stir” in relation to a well-recognized (and admittedly very important) women’s issue (e.g., female genital mutilation, child marriage). Other sessions did take up issues more central to rural livelihoods, including spatial removal from services and agents of the state, and women’s roles in agricultural production. The lack of significant engagement with the particular challenges facing rural women is reflected in the fact that none of the resolutions adopted by the Commission was about rural women. Nor did the Commission adopt any agreed conclusions on the priority theme of the 56th Session.

In contrast to CSW’s somewhat anemic approach to the priority theme, Article 14 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) addresses the rights of rural women as a group. Indeed, CEDAW is the first human rights treaty to recognize rural difference, to acknowledge rural populations. While Article 14 guarantees to rural women all the rights enumerated elsewhere in CEDAW, the article also addresses rights specific to rural women. These include the right:

  • to be involved in “development planning at all levels”;
  • to benefit from “all community and extension services” among other types of education;
  • to “organize self-help groups and cooperatives in order to obtain equal access to economic opportunities”;
  • “to have access to agricultural credit and loans, marketing facilities, appropriate technology and equal treatment in land and agrarian reform, as well as in land resettlement schemes”; and
  • “to enjoy adequate living conditions, particularly in relation to housing, sanitation, electricity and water supply, transport and communications.”

Read more about Article 14, its history, and its implementation herehere, and here. Given the particular attention paid to rural women in this germinal women’s rights treaty, one might have anticipated considerable attention to the provision and its potential at CSW 56. Not so at the sessions I attended. I heard Article 14 mentioned only a couple of times.

It is a common bias among lawyers to presume law can solve problems and should be used to do so. Lawyers may be more skeptical about whether international law is effective at solving problems, attributing failures to the lack of enforceability of international law and the lack of respect for the rule of law, particularly in the developing world. As a ruralist, I have asserted that law is less effective at addressing problems in rural locales for some similar reasons. That is, when legal institutions and legal actors (including lawyers) are literally less present, laws on the books are less potent and the rule of law withers. All of these issues related to the relevance, authority, and efficacy of law were in play—sometimes explicitly, more often implicitly—in the attention CSW 56 gave to rural women.

Many of the participants in CSW 56 were not lawyers—nor were they UN or national officials. Rather, the vast majority of participants were associated with NGOs that have consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council. Indeed, on each morning of CSW 56, officials with UN Women held a briefing for NGO representatives (also referred to as “civil society”). By the middle of the first week, UN Women announced that 1,598 NGO representatives from 358 NGOs were engaged in the annual gathering.

At these daily briefings, UN Women officials offered affirmations to NGO representatives, assuring them of the importance of their efforts. The UN officials also offered updates on what was happening at the “high-level meetings” that few NGO representatives had permission to attend. In spite of their exclusion from many of the events where member states were in direct talks, NGOs presented a robust and varied array of panel discussions. A tiny sampling of the topics and their sponsors follows:

  • Women and Corruption: Grassroots Experiences and Strategies, Huairou Commission, UN Development Program
  • Empowering Caregivers to Build Healthy Sustainable Communities, Huairou Commission, GROOTS International, International Council of Women
  • Rural Women's Groups and Key Stakeholders Frame Joint Actions, Government of Norway, Huairou Commission, GROOTS International, UN Women, UN-Non Governmental Liaison Service, Baha'i International Community, Food and Agriculture Organization, International Fund for Agricultural Development, World Food Program, Landesa
  • Rural Women Speak: Land, Health and Rights in Africa, FEMNET
  • Rural Girls and Urban Migration: The Role of Communications for Development in Bridging the Divide, UN-HABITAT, Plan International, UNESCO, Women in Cities International
  • Measuring Change for Rural Women in Sub-Saharan Africa, Global Fund for Women

Here is a link to the official programming, and a full listing of the NGO programming is here.

While most commentators in these parallel and side events presumed developing world contexts, a few offered reminders that biases against women persist in the developed world, too, including in relation to agriculture. In other words, Australia, Canada, the United States (just to name a few) all have work to do to empower women, including those in rural areas. (To be clear, unlike these other nations, the U.S. has never ratified CEDAW and is not bound by it).

This sampling of events demonstrates my earlier points about both the relative absence of attention to law’s role in solving the problems of rural women (and perhaps, by implication, all women), and also the shortage of programming regarding issues unique to rural women. To the extent that the particular concerns and circumstances of rural women were center stage, the focus typically related to agriculture. Among these were issues such as access to credit and means of marketing their products, the relative merits of “sustainable” agriculture versus intensive production agriculture, and an issue that more squarely implicates law: women’s right to own land. Officials from UN Women reported that diplomats participating in CSW 56 were sharing examples of legislation that would achieve land reform and improve land distribution schemes, but in the next breath they acknowledged the challenge of getting these laws implemented and enforced.

The need for legal reform arose in other contexts, too, but so did law’s limitations. For every comment I heard about the utility of Article 14 of CEDAW (or some other progressive national or international law) and the importance of legal and policy environments that were conducive to women’s empowerment, I also heard words of caution about the limits of law. Government and UN officials were more likely to tout the power of law, while NGOs were more likely to focus on village realities that often undermine the rule of law. Among those offering caveats regarding the potency of law were those who noted that many will be reluctant to invoke it—including criminal laws—in relation, for example, to forced child marriage. One African NGO representative stated,

Face reality ... be honest. Even in America, who tells the law? Maybe [the victims and their families] are illiterate ... [child marriage] is their custom. Who goes to tell the law except the child? And how can the child go tell the law?

This is where all of us come in ... if your NGO is interested in solving these problems. You go [to the village], watch the ways things are done and then talk to the educated locals [so that they begin to see the social and economic costs of the practice, e.g., child marriage]. And they will know they must do something.

This woman, like many others I heard over three days, extolled the importance of grassroots efforts to achieve the empowerment of women.

Wherever one might strike the balance between formal law on the one hand and local, grassroots efforts to educate and achieve cultural change on the other, few coming out of CSW 56 would dispute that both have significant roles in empowering not only rural women, but indeed all women.

Originally posted to Jurist.org; cross-posted to Legal RuralismIntLawGrrls and Agricultural Law.

 

 

September 23, 2011

More Jasmine Revolutions? Or Better Big Brothers?

Should dictators fear, or welcome, the Internet?  I grapple with this question in a new essay, Jasmine Revolutions, forthcoming in the Cornell Law Review.  The draft of the paper is available here.

Here is the abstract for the paper:

Will the Internet help topple tyrants, or will it help further cement their control? Prominent skeptics challenge the notion that the Internet will help rid the world of dictators. They suggest that the Internet will simply serve as a new opiate of the masses, or worse, will assist autocrats in manipulating popular opinion. I defend the liberalizing promise of cyberspace. Where others have set out the value of the Internet to dissidents, I answer the main critiques of that position - that Internet activism is futile, that the Internet is simply the new opiate of the masses, and that autocrats will benefit more from the Internet than dissidents. I argue that dictators have revealed their own appraisals of the Internet: when threatened, they shut it down. Tyrants today fear the Internet more than they benefit from it. This summer’s events again confirmed this truth: On the day when the rebels marched into Tripoli, they restored Libya to the Internet.

 


August 8, 2011

Download This: The Asian Century?

With sovereign debt crises afflicting both the United States and Europe, it is more important than ever to understand what the rise of Asia means for the world.  In this article, I compare two visions of internationalism--Henry Luce's framework of an American Century with Rabindranath Tagore's vision of an international order.  The paper marks in my own way an homage to Tagore, whose 150th birth anniversary we mark this year.

Download here.

The abstract for the paper:

How might an Asian Century to come differ from the American Century just past? Will an Asian Century, should it come to pass, mark a retreat for human rights, including women’s rights and gay rights? In this introduction to a UC Davis Law Review symposium, I contrast Henry Luce’s vision for an American Century with the internationalism of his near contemporary, the Indian Poet Laureate Rabindranath Tagore. As the United States entered World War II, Luce, publisher of TimeLife, and Fortune, asked, “What are we fighting for?” Luce’s manifesto declaring an “American Century” answered that it was the internationalization of American ideas—promulgated from Hollywood to Washington. Luce’s vision presaged American support for human rights after the war and its forceful, if inconsistent, critique of despots during the latter half of the Twentieth Century. 

In the Post-War era, China and India embraced the sovereign nation-state, often proving reluctant to support intervention in the affairs of other countries, even when human rights were at stake. Tagore offered an alternative vision. Hailing from a land that long suffered at the hands of British traders and imperialists, Tagore proposed an internationalism led by neither the merchant nor the soldier. Instead, Tagore offered a world order founded on a kind of critical friendship, unflinchingly focused on human dignity for all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 27, 2010

Report from the XVIIIth International Congress of Comparative Law in Washington

Congress 2010

I am here in Washington, D.C., at the XVIIIth International Congress of Comparative Law.

The congress is taking place all of this week, presented by the International Academy of Comparative Law and the American Society of Comparative Law, and hosted by three local law schools, American University Washington College of Law, George Washington University Law School, and Georgetown University Law Center. It is a pleasure to be among such a diverse group of jurists, lawyers, and scholars from around the world. The Academy, which is composed of academics and jurists from around the world, organizes every 4 years in different parts of the world an international congress of comparative law. From my understanding, this is the first time that an international congress has been held in the United States.

The conference got off to a great start today with an opening plenary addressing the "Role of Comparative Law in Courts and International Tribunals." The panel was chaired by the Secretary-General of the International Academy of Comparative Law and Director of the Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law in Hamburg, Dr. Jürgen Basedow. Representing views from both domestic and international courts, as well as a viewpoint from practice, the distinguished panelists discussed the role of both international and comparative law in their own courts:

Judge Rosemary Barkett

Judge Rosemary Barkett (right), U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit (for whom I had the privilege of clerking), began by remarking that to some extent comparing laws has some role in all jurisdictions. She presented a historical perspective from the United States to demonstrate that the practice of considering foreign sources is rooted in the legal history and tradition of the United States, citing to the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Federalist papers, as well as to numerous opinions from the U.S. Supreme Court. One of Judge Barkett’s most important points was that, as international and comparative scholars, we need to address the definitional problems in comparative law. For example, many jurisdictions espouse allegiance to the rule of law, but what exactly does rule of law entail?

Justice Sabino Cassesse

Justice Sabino Cassese (left), of the Constitutional Court of Italy, next provided three distinct examples of courts looking beyond their own nation’s borders for insights. He emphasized that recourse to comparison by high courts is widespread, and that increasingly supreme courts are acting as comparatists. Justice Cassese emphasized two tasks for comparative lawyers and scholars: one, to examine and evaluate how judges and courts use foreign law; and two, to develop methods and procedures for comparison.

Carolyn Lamm

The presentations of Judge Barkett and Justice Cassese were followed by the practitioner’s perspective, Carolyn Lamm (right), a partner at White & Case in Washington and President of the American Bar Association. She emphasized the importance of looking to other systems for persuasive, not precedential, value. Lamm reminded us of the speech from former U.S. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, in a 1989 talk titled "Constitutional Courts—Comparative Remarks," in which he remarked:

For nearly a century and a half, courts in the United States exercising the power of judicial review had no precedents to look to save their own, because our courts alone exercised this sort of authority. . . . But now that constitutional law is solidly grounded in so many countries, it is time that the United States courts begin looking to the decisions of other constitutional courts to aid in their own deliberative process.
Reprinted in Germany and Its Basic Law: Past, Present and Future, A German-American Symposium 411, 412 (Paul Kirchhof & Donald P. Kommers eds., 1993).

Lamm also cited to the “Obama-Clinton Doctrine” speech that State Department Legal Adviser Harold Hongju Koh delivered to the American Society of International Law annual meeting. (additional coverage) The speech is definitely worth a read.

Judge Diego García Sayán

Judge Diego García Sayán (right), President of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, spoke of the role of his regional court with respect to national courts in the Americas. He explained that most Latin American national courts openly and explicitly use judgments of the Inter-American court in their decisions, and that the Inter-American court also has used local and national criteria used by national courts. Judge García Sayán also remarked on the use of international law by the Inter-American court, particularly noting the influence of the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights. While this influence used to be primarily a one-way street, recently the European Court of Human Rights has also looked to the jurisprudence of the Inter-American court for persuasive value.

Judge Bruno Simma

Judge Bruno Simma (left) followed by describing his experience on the International Court of Justice and his use of comparative law in an early opinion on the Oil Platforms dispute between Iran and the United States. Judge Simma warned both of the dangers that could befall a comparatist and of comparative law accidents.

The presentations were followed by a dynamic discussion among the panelists on a variety of issues, including the weight to be given to comparative law in judicial opinions and the relationship between international and comparative law.

The opening plenary was followed the rest of the day with various breakout sessions, including the delivery and discussion of general and national reports prepared for the conference. For those of you interested in comparative surveys of various legal issues, the reports should not be missed.

The conference got off to a great start yesterday. Today’s program, which will be held at the George Washington University Law School, promises to be as dynamic as this first day.

Cross-posted at IntLawGrrls.

March 31, 2010

Justice Stevens on Targeted Killing

As detailed via quotes in the post below, the Legal Adviser to the U.S. Department of State, Harold Hongju Koh (below left), [last week] outlined a multi-pronged defense of the Obama Administration's use of drones for targeted killings of presumed al Qaeda operatives. (photo credit) Among the statements made during Koh's keynote speech to the American Society of International Law was this:

[S]ome have argued that the use of lethal force against specific individuals fails to provide adequate process and thus constitutes unlawful extrajudicial killing. But a state that is engaged in armed conflict or in legitimate self-defense is not required to provide targets with legal process before the state may use lethal force.
Upon hearing these words, my mind jumped at once to my 2005 interview of U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens (above right), for whom I had the privilege of clerking and about whom I am writing a jurisprudential biography. (photo credit) Stevens served as a Navy codebreaker at Pearl Harbor from 1942-1945, and earned a Bronze Star for that service. The relevant passage from my 2006 article entitled John Paul Stevens, Human Rights Judge described Stevens' thoughts about perhaps the most famous targeted killing of World War II:

One event days before Stevens’s twenty-third birthday would stay with him for the rest of his life. The architect of the Pearl Harbor attack was Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, who had learned English from a missionary and become a Babe Ruth fan while studying at Harvard in the 1920s. On April 14, 1943, Americans discovered that Yamamoto [right] was about to travel to the front. Unbeknownst to the Japanese, Stevens explained in an interview more than sixty years later, “We had broken the code.” On Roosevelt’s orders, U.S. pilots downed Yamamoto’s plane over a Solomon Islands jungle on April 18, Easter Sunday. “I was on duty on the day they brought the plane down,” Stevens said, “The message was, ‘We bagged one eagle and two sparrows,’ indicating success in the mission.” The kill buoyed the spirits of many, who knew that getting Yamamoto would, as Stevens put it, “have a tremendous strategic advantage.”
Stevens' own thoughts were more complex:
But the incident troubled the young officer. “I remember thinking that the planners must have engaged in a lot of deliberation before deciding to go along with the plan,” Stevens said. “I have read a number of books on it since and discovered that was not the case. They were concerned that targeting him would reveal that they had broken the code.” Accounts of the killing indicate that U.S. Admiral Chester A. Nimitz and others—in communications laced with foxhunting terms—debated only the tactical benefits and costs. “But they had no humanitarian concerns at all of the kind that troubled me,” Stevens said. That fact “kind of surprised me,” he continued, particularly given that Yamamoto “had spent time in the United States and had friendships among high-ranking American officers.”
Stevens reaffirmed this sensibility in a just-published New Yorker interview. There author Jeffrey Toobin tracked the Yamamoto account in my 2006 article (without, alas, citation to same). Implicitly linking the Yamamoto incident to his later discussion of Stevens' post-9/11 jurisprudence, Toobin contributed this insight:
The morality of military action became a lifelong preoccupation.
It's also worth noting that Stevens' concerns respecting that targeted killing had a profound effect on his capital punishment jurisprudence. The passage in my 2006 article thus continued:
Appearing before the Chicago Bar Association decades later, Stevens alluded to the event without naming the target. The Justice told his audience that the experience had sown doubts in his mind about another instance in which the state takes the life of a named individual; that is, capital punishment. Recalling that talk, Stevens affirmed that the Yamamoto incident led him to conclude that “[t]he targeting of a particular individual with the intent to kill him was a lot different than killing a soldier in battle and dealing with a statistic. . . . In my mind, there is a difference between statistics and sitting on a jury and deciding whether to kill a single person.”
As pointed out in note 178 of my article, Stevens revealed in a 1996 speech that, notwithstanding these doubts, at the time of his 1975 confirmation hearings, he did not himself know how he would vote on capital punishment. The Justice since has told me that in 1975 no Senator asked him his views, neither publicly nor privately. In 1976, he voted in Gregg and related cases to reinstate the death penalty. But as posted, in 2008, Stevens made public his conclusion that the death penalty, in all its applications, violates the 8th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Stevens' linkage of targeted killing amid armed conflict with the targeting for execution of a convicted murderer provokes further thoughts:
► As my 2006 article observed,
That superior officers expressed no qualms in 1943 about targeting Yamamoto suggests earlier sources for Stevens’s “humanitarian” unease.
My 2010 article John Paul Stevens and Equally Impartial Government (now available in pdf here, and soon to be in print in the UC Davis Law Review) sets forth a story of Stevens's family that might have encouraged careful thought about the power of the state.
► It bears particular mention that although Stevens harbored what he called “humanitarian concerns” years before he would decide to enter law school, his were, fundamentally, the concerns of a lawyer. They signaled a visceral sense that the process of law, no less than law's substance, places valuable constraints on state power.
The quote at the very top of this post stands in conflict with that sense of justice.

[Cross-posted from IntLawGrrls]

 

March 11, 2010

Does the Internet Deserve a Nobel Peace Prize?

The BBC reports that the Internet has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. 

Some, such as the Italian version of Wired magazine, have championed the Internet's nomination for helping advance "dialogue, debate and consensus."

It may seem laughable to give a Peace Prize to a communications medium, but there is reason to take the nomination seriously. 

Alfred Nobel, in his will, announced that one prize should be awarded to "the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations and the abolition or reduction of standing armies and the formation and spreading of peace congresses."

The Nobel Prize Committee has long awarded the Prize to associations, not just natural "persons"--including recently the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Selecting the Internet would extend the prize further to an even more abstract entity, but it would still go to a human endeavor.

Has the Internet advanced the cause of peace?  That still remains unclear, but there is reason to be hopeful. The Web makes possible an increasing sense of common membership in the world. The very nature of the "World Wide" Web, with its focus on interconnectedness and its disrespect for political borders or geographical distance, promotes this. The Internet, in this sense, promotes "fraternity between the nations."

The Internet also allows dissidents to escape local controls on speech. I explore this further in a forthcoming California Law Review article, Googling Freedom, which I will post soon. This may be the reason that Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi is cited as a supporter of the nomination of the Internet for the Peace Prize.

There is of course the dark side of the Internet. Through this medium, terrorists have plotted their terror and arms merchants have found buyers. Nationalists have promoted jingoism.

Indeed, the Internet might permit individuals to limit themselves to a narrow informational universe, accessing only sites and information that confirm (and perhaps strengthen) our prior views.  This is Cass Sunstein's argument, which I have critiqued in my paper, Whose Republic?, published in the University of Chicago Law Review. Where Sunstein worries about the "Daily Me" made possible by electronic intermediaries that deliver news tailored to a reader's tastes, I observe that, for minorities, the traditional media offer the "Daily Them" -- a vision of society focused on its dominant members.

The BBC story notes that "[i]t is unclear who would accept the prize if the internet were to win."  I would nominate Tim Berners-Lee, the man who gave the world the "World-Wide-Web," a visionary communications protocol that made the Internet popular beyond the relatively narrow confines of technologists. 

By raising the possibility of the Internet as a Nobel Laureate, I should not be misunderstood as endorsing such a choice. There are many worthy candidates, including Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, who languishes under arrest. Indeed, it is likely the case that these other candidates are more worthy of the prize--and that choosing them might have a greater likelihood of promoting the cause of peace.  

 

February 27, 2010

Asia on our mind



"The Asian Century?"
So asked participants at yesterday's same-named conference (prior post) organized by our colleague Anupam Chander and sponsored by the Law Review here at the University of California, Davis, School of Law (Martin Luther King, Jr. Hall).
The answers were myriad, and themselves provoked questions. Indeed, participants on the panel that I had the privilege to moderate questioned the title's very premise:

'Where is Asia? When is Asia?'

 Teemu Ruskola queried. To this our colleague Keith Aoki added, in effect,


'What is Asia?'

The last "American Century" and the "British Century" that preceded it were different from this notion of an "Asian Century," Keith said. Those others concerned a nation-state; this concerns a continent.
I wonder.
It is persons in the West who put forward this notional Asian Century. Who treat "Asia" as a single entity rather than a mass of entities, as an it rather than a them. Who, at times, see its rising economic power, its rising population, its politics, as potential threats.
Is it possible that those earlier centuries, named as they were with state-centric particularity, were constructs of their subject namesakes? Possible that the objects of those other centuries aggregated threats much like some of us now do "Asia"?
From the perspective of those object persons, might the 1800s and 1900s have been, simply, back-to-back Western Centuries?
Even when pondering with particularity, did the object persons of the 20th view it not as the American, but perhaps as the Russo-American, Century?
Was the British Century a construct of Britain? Might objects of that 19th Century -- persons, say, colonized in Portugal-controlled Africa -- have seen it instead as the European Century? Or perhaps as the Colonial Century, as a time defined less by geographic map and more by method of governance?
Perhaps this 21st Century aggregation says less about "Asia" than it does about our mindset -- about how some in the West seem already resigned to an object status.
That resignation may prove premature.
The final panelist, Tom Ginsburg, reminded that other such prognostications have fallen flat; for instance, past predictions that Japan, Egypt, even Sri Lanka or Burma, would win dominance. Tom's own prediction: Asia will not aggregate into a supranational entity. Some of the many countries in that part of the world indeed may attain power. But they will wield it, Tom ventured, in ways that reinforce the old, the 17th Century, model of independent, noninterference-prizing nation-states.
In store in the 2000s may be not so much an Asian Century as -- to borrow Tom's coinage -- an Eastphalian Era.