Law of Geography and the Geography of Law: A Post-colonial Mapping

47 Pages Posted: 16 Jul 2009 Last revised: 6 Oct 2010

See all articles by Tayyab Mahmud

Tayyab Mahmud

Seattle University School of Law - Center for Global Justice

Date Written: July 13, 2009


This article examines the relationship between law and geography through the prisms of colonialism and neoliberal Empire. Using two novels set in the India of 19th and 21st century, respectively, it evaluates the so-called first law of geography that posits decisive impact of spatial distance upon relations between things. This paper argues that the formative and enduring relationship between global systems of domination and modern law has created a geo-legal space that has a global dimension. This geo-legal space procreates norms and subjectivities that are intimately related to spatially distant forces and projects. Emergence and consolidation of capitalism created a global geo-economic space where law and geography were brought together creating an intimate relationship between the global and the local. Accumulation by dispossession, an enduring feature of capitalism, renders this global relationship one of domination and exploitation. While colonial and post-colonial phases of global capitalism deployed different regimes of political and economic governance, they function within the same grammar of modern law that facilitates domination and exploitation in the service of capital accumulation by dispossession.

Keywords: Law, Geography, Colonialism, Empire, International Law, India, Fiction, Neo-liberalism, Post-colonial, Imperialism

JEL Classification: B25, J61, K33, K4, N15, N4, N45, O53

Suggested Citation

Mahmud, Tayyab, Law of Geography and the Geography of Law: A Post-colonial Mapping (July 13, 2009). Available at SSRN: or

Tayyab Mahmud (Contact Author)

Seattle University School of Law - Center for Global Justice ( email )

901 12th Avenue, Sullivan Hall
P.O. Box 222000
Seattle, WA n/a 98122-1090
United States

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