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Presentation
Mesopotamian fantasies and the laws of occupation: Colonial past and present
Harvad Law School IGLP Workshop (2015)
  • Matilda Arvidsson, Lund University
Abstract

This paper engages with the British administration of Mesopotamia 1914–1920 as an early example of belligerent occupation pursuant to the Hague Regulation of 1907. In doing so it seeks to point to a historical continuum between colonial administration and that of belligerent occupation. It further aims to address a certain understanding, underwriting international law textbooks and international legal discourse alike, of the relationship between colonialism and international law as overcome by the disciplinary teleological progression of the field of law. This progressivist narrative is, as the critical legal scholarship has shown, done through casting the League of Nation Mandate system as an articulation of a colonial mindset overcome through that system being rendered obsolete by the current international legal order. This paper which to express a slightly different approach and point. Two things are suggested: First it is suggested that the elusive notion of ‘administration’ under the laws of occupation – presupposed yet nowhere properly defined by law – makes out a vehicle for continuous colonial practices under the auspice of international law. This was unarguably so in the case of the occupation of Mesopotamia. As the recent case of the administration of the occupation of Iraq 2003–2004 shows it seems to be an enduring state of affairs. Second: it is suggested that the configuration of the laws of occupation as ‘international law’s state of exception’ – not an exception from international law but rather a figural inclusion within it – renders the field of law an enduring repository for international law’s colonial impulse. Thus, it is argued in this paper is that the colonial impulse of international law has far from been overcome: instead we must understand it as an integral part of international law’s configuration, the laws of occupation being a case substantiating such an understanding. To demonstrate its points the paper considers the circumstances under which the administration of the occupation of Mesopotamia, 1914–1920, became a blueprint of British Indian colonial administration. To this end the paper begins by telling the story of the administrative overlap between colonial British India and that of occupied Mesopotamia. This is then, in the next part of the paper, related to the notion of ‘administration’ under the laws of occupation and the administration of the occupation of Iraq, 2003–2004. In the third part of the paper the configuration of the laws of occupation as an ‘exception’ is expanded on, and in a fourth and last part the story returns to the question of the historiographical eclipse and its possible implications.

Keywords
  • Mesopotamia; Iraq; international law of belligerent occupation; colonialism
Publication Date
Winter January 2, 2015
Citation Information
Matilda Arvidsson. "Mesopotamian fantasies and the laws of occupation: Colonial past and present" Harvad Law School IGLP Workshop (2015)
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/matilda_arvidsson/54/