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Sawyer Seminar AY 2017-2018: The Corporation and International Law

Please see below for an exciting new course taught jointly by faculty in law and history at Duke University, which will be offered next year as part of a Mellon Sawyer Seminar. Contact Phil Stern for more information.

The Corporation and International Law: Past, Present and Future 
Sawyer Seminar Course
Rachel Brewster (Law) and Philip Stern (History)
History 590S.02
Fridays, 11:45-1:35

From politics to popular culture, from the East India Company to Walmart, the corporation has become one of the most critical economic, political, and cultural institutions of the modern era. It has also been one of the most controversial. Are corporations people, societies, or even governments? Do they have rights? If so, what are their civic, social, ethical, and political responsibilities? Moreover, though they are born of varying forms of domestic law, many corporations have a global footprint and influence on our conceptions of sovereignty and governance, the functioning of international markets, the nature of interstate relations, wealth distribution, international development, and, at a basic level, the lives of people around the world. Yet modern international law has generally been understood to apply almost exclusively to states and to touch only lightly on corporate institutions, with profound consequences for everything from human rights to the global environment. We still lack the robust and extensive concepts and languages to comprehend their jurisdictionally ambiguous and spatially diffuse nature, as well as corporations’ relationships to individuals, states, and other non-state actors in a world filled with various independent or semi-independent political agents besides the nation-state.

Offered in conjunction with an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation funded Sawyer Seminar, this interdisciplinary course provides the unique opportunity for enrolled students to engage with a number of nationally and internationally-prominent visiting experts on these questions coming from across the humanities, social sciences, law, and business, as well as a diverse and integrated group of faculty and student participants. Topics will include the origins and development of the corporation and of international law; the impact of claims to corporate commercial rights and regulatory regimes on global legal frameworks; the capacity of corporations to act as forms of government over people and places, from colonial enterprises to contemporary multinationals; and the implications of all of these issues on concerns such as state formation, sovereignty, globalization, and environmental and human rights. Graduate and undergraduate students from all humanities and social science disciplines welcome.

With support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute, the School of Law, and the Department of History

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