Concepts for International Law
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Concepts for International Law

Contributions to Disciplinary Thought

Edited by Jean d’Aspremont and Sahib Singh

Concepts shape how we understand and participate in international legal affairs. They are an important site for order, struggle and change. This comprehensive and authoritative volume introduces a large number of concepts that have shaped, at various points in history, international legal practice and thought; intimates at how the many projects of international law have grappled with, and influenced, the world through certain concepts; and introduces new concepts into the discipline.
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Chapter 27: Imperialism

Akbar Rasulov


The concept of imperialism represents one of the most significant nodal points in the broader structure of the contemporary international law discourse, a marker of a complex discursive space, the intellectual platform for the actualization of international law's various ideological struggles. How we construct the concept of imperialism, how we narrate the relationship between it and the rest of the ideational landscape of international law, in the final analysis, always acts as a statement about where exactly within the discipline’s internal political space we prefer to make our ideological home. In the contemporary usage, the international legal discourse about imperialism is structured around four basic narratives. Each of these narratives presupposes its own, fairly distinct conception of what international lawyers should understand by imperialism and how it relates to international law. Drawing on the methodologies of critical narratology and Critical Legal Studies, this chapter proposes to trace the general contours of each of these four narratives and explore their underlying theoretical logics and conceptual architectures.

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