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Muir Watt on Alterity in the Conflict of Laws

Horatia Muir Watt (Sciences Po Law School) has published the lecture that she gave as the 18th Rabel Lecture in November 2022 on Alterity in the Conflict of Laws – An Onthology of the In-Between.

The conflict of laws can serve heuristically to underscore two established but radically opposing models of modernist legal ordering: multilateralism and statutism. Such a prism is helpful if we want to rethink (as we must!) our late-modern legality’s deep epistemological settings in the shadow of the »catastrophic times« to come, whether in terms of environmental devastation or political dislocation. Both phenomena are profoundly linked and indeed constitute two faces of alterity, natural and cultural, from which modernity has progressively taught us to distance ourselves. Importantly, law encodes the conditions that produce these dual somatic symptoms in our contemporary societies. This chasm between nature and culture has produced humanity’s “ontological privilege” over our natural surroundings and a similar claim of superiority of modern (Western) worldviews over “the rest”. In this respect, the main achievement of the moderns, as Bruno Latour wryly observed, has been to universalise the collective blindness and amnesia that allow our “anthropocentric machine” to hurtle on, devastating life in its path and devouring the very resources it needs to survive.

The paper, which is published in free access, is forthcoming in the Rabels Zeitschrift.

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