DOI link for Introduction
Wars, forced migrations, environmental catastrophes, pandemic outbreaks, trade breakdowns, mass grave exhumations, technological breakthroughs: the international legal imaginary is littered with ruptive instances. For international lawyers, Louis Henkin’s famous observation – that ‘almost all nations observe almost all principles of international law and almost all of their obligations almost all of the time’ – continues to be the source of great reassurance (Henkin 1979: 47). From the venous hum of postal services, ﬂight routes and ﬁnancial transactions, international lawyers discern a disciplinary heartbeat and conviction that an operative body of law remains in place. Yet international lawyers listen, above all, for the screech accompanying an event, when that hum seems to recede and reparation of one kind or another is urged. Of such acute moments is a sense of disciplinary life strung together; of the episodic international law makes an everyday. The snapshots from that disciplinary life that are assembled in this book are
among its most familiar. From the mythic dimensions of the Peace ofWestphalia of 1648 to recent revelations of torture perpetrated or sponsored by the US and its allies: the chronology is commonplace. Even its lurches across centuries, unlikely conjunctions and inevitable omissions will be unsurprising to any student of international law. Yet, in their very conventionality, these episodes have much still to relate, or so the contributors to this book will demonstrate. But before introducing (or reintroducing) international law in all its
momentousness in the chapters that follow, we need brieﬂy to explain what this book is about. Impelling the collection is a wish to refresh international legal thinking around events. For if international law is organized around events, then rethinking the event is crucial for a critical international law. What, then, might be entailed in the exercise of ‘eventing’ international law; of ﬁnding in international law an opening, or having it come to pass anew (OED 1989)?