The Dickson Poon School of Law at Kings College London convened its inaugural “Transnational” Law Summit 2018 in April 2018. Legal academics and practitioners gathered over expert keynote presentations, panel debates and smaller workshops, presenting on a theme inspired by Hannah Arendt’s “The Human Condition”: Creating Justice for Our Future.
Applying “trans” rather than “inter” to the concept of the nation can open up interesting prospects for developing a jurisprudence that can respond to the current social, political and ecological crises. “Inter-national” law is that body of customary rules and treaties regulating the conduct as between nation states. The boundary is drawn around “the nation” as the unit of identity, with “inter” denoting the relation of “between”. “Trans” on the other hand means across or beyond, thus denoting the open ended territory that lies beyond the idea of the nation, emerging beyond such identities. “Transnational law” can thus interrogate “the State” as an institution of power and straddle over private as well as public law concepts, exploring what is emerging in the actual territory of people pushing and resisting and growing out of traditional notions of the State as purveyor of the “public interest”.
What many of the speakers seemed to be making a call for, from 2003 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Shirin Ebadi, to German Federal Constitutional Court judge Susanne Baer, was for civil society to come together beyond the State, as new “Sites of Engagement and Agency” (SEAs) for re-shaping power in a fracturing landscape of traditional institutions. This need for a new language for politics that can embrace networked civic action as a site of power is being recognized in organisations and platforms such as Civil Society Futures.
A short video summary of the Transnational Law Summit ends with this quote that feels apt for the times we are living in, a reminder that ”the political realm arises directly out of acting together, the sharing of words and deeds”.