Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=2281528
 


 



Legal Orientalism: China, the United States, and Modern Law


Teemu Ruskola


Emory University School of Law

2013

Legal Orientalism: China, the United States, and Modern Law, Harvard University Press, 2013

Abstract:     
Since the Cold War ended, China has become a global symbol of disregard for human rights, while the United States has positioned itself as the world’s chief exporter of the rule of law. How did lawlessness become an axiom about Chineseness, rather than a fact needing to be verified empirically, and how did the United States assume the mantle of law’s universal appeal? In this new book, Teemu Ruskola undertakes a series of wide-ranging investigations in order to analyze the history of “legal Orientalism": a set of globally circulating narratives about what law is and who has it. For example, why is China said not to have a history of corporate law, as a way of explaining its “failure” to develop capitalism on its own? Ruskola shows how a European tradition of philosophical prejudices about Chinese law developed into a distinctively American ideology of empire, influential to this day.

The first Sino-U.S. Treaty in 1844 authorized the extraterritorial application of American law in a putatively lawless China. A kind of legal imperialism, this practice long predated U.S. territorial colonialism after the Spanish-American War in 1898, and found its fullest expression in an American district court’s jurisdiction over the “District of China." With urgent contemporary implications, legal Orientalism lives on in the enduring damage wrought on the U.S.Constitution by late-nineteenth-century anti-Chinese immigration laws, and in the self-Orientalizing reforms of Chinese law today. In the global politics of trade and human rights, legal Orientalism continues to shape modern subjectivities, institutions, and geopolitics in powerful and unacknowledged ways.

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Date posted: June 19, 2013 ; Last revised: June 21, 2013

Suggested Citation

Ruskola, Teemu, Legal Orientalism: China, the United States, and Modern Law (2013). Legal Orientalism: China, the United States, and Modern Law, Harvard University Press, 2013. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2281528

Contact Information

Teemu Ruskola (Contact Author)
Emory University School of Law ( email )
1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States
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