The Practice(s) of Extraterritoriality

Extraterritoriality/L'extraterritorialite, Hannah L. Buxbaum & Thibaut Fleury Graff eds., Brill Nijhoff 2022

Posted: 6 Sep 2022 Last revised: 21 Feb 2023

See all articles by Hannah L. Buxbaum

Hannah L. Buxbaum

Indiana University Bloomington Maurer School of Law

Date Written: September 1, 2022


Extraterritoriality has a bad reputation. The term has acquired inescapably negative connotations as a result of its alignment with one particular practice: a state’s regulation of foreign activity without the consent—or, worse, over the objections—of the state in which the activity occurred. Yet while that practice has become common, particularly in the area of economic law, it is by no means the only form of extraterritorial governance. Exercises of legal authority that affect persons, activity, or interests outside the lawmaker’s territory take many forms and serve many purposes—and in many cases are unobjectionable as a matter of international law and policy.

Equating extraterritoriality with an overreach of state authority elides the significant differences among such practices, and this work seeks to explore the full range and variety of extraterritorial regulation. The chapter draws examples from many areas of substantive law, including criminal law, economic regulation, and human rights regimes. It considers different modes of extraterritorial governance, examining both unilateral regulation and regulation undertaken within treaty frameworks. Finally, the chapter identifies circumstances in which states practice extraterritoriality not to advance local interests but to achieve collective goals or protect global goods—as well as circumstances in which extraterritoriality is not merely permitted but is a state obligation.

The chapter explores not only the descriptive but also the normative dimensions of extraterritoriality. Although doctrine in this area relies heavily on geographic facts, the point of calling an exercise of legal authority “extraterritorial” is not to say something about the physical space in which a state acts. It is to say something about the legal space in which a state acts—that is, its jurisdiction. And the relationship between physical space and legal space is highly contingent, shifting across contexts and over time as a result of changes in international law and modes of human interaction. I approach extraterritoriality as a legal construct used to mediate the ever-changing relationship between regulatory needs (both of individual states and of the international community) and prevailing theories of sovereignty.

Keywords: territoriality, jurisdiction, globalization, sovereignty

JEL Classification: K20, K32, K33

Suggested Citation

Buxbaum, Hannah L., The Practice(s) of Extraterritoriality (September 1, 2022). Extraterritoriality/L'extraterritorialite, Hannah L. Buxbaum & Thibaut Fleury Graff eds., Brill Nijhoff 2022, Available at SSRN:

Hannah L. Buxbaum (Contact Author)

Indiana University Bloomington Maurer School of Law ( email )

211 S. Indiana Avenue
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics