Where is Asia? When is Asia? Theorizing Comparative Law and International Law
19 Pages Posted: 8 May 2011 Last revised: 28 May 2014
Ever since Henry Luce pronounced the twentieth century an American one, numerous critical observers have predicted that Asia will preside over the twenty-first one. Yet even today, that prediction still confronts us as a question: Asian Century? In this Essay, I approach the question by disaggregating the way it conflates space and time. I ask, separately, Where is Asia? and When is Asia? I seek to answer the first question in terms of cultural geography and the second one in terms of historiography. Effectively, I suggest that the problem of Asia is an epistemological one. I also consider what it means for comparative lawyers and international lawyers to take that problem seriously. I so do by using the so-called Asian Values debate as a point of entry to consider the methodological relationship between comparative and international law as disciplines. Both the Asian Values debate and the two legal disciplines are structured around a dialectic opposition between universal and particular values. Rather than positing preconstituted objects of legal knowledge and seeking to classify them as either universal or particular, I urge that we examine the worldview that gives rise to such binaries and makes them intelligible: How do the entities we analyze come to be seen as distinctive and oppositional to each other in the first place? Focusing on Chinese law, I consider an approach that is neither Eurocentric nor Sinocentric but de-centers both axes of comparison.
Keywords: Asia, Europe, China, time, space, comparative law, international law, legal theory, culture, Eurocentrism, Sinocentrism, Asian values
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