Hannah Arendt and international law

Deborah Maree Whitehall

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This chapter reconsiders the arc of Hannah Arendt’s writings about international law. Rather than evincing a haphazard or ambivalent narrative by a peripheral figure, her scattered remarks arguably present a careful pattern of demands upon international law, announced at the discipline’s key formative turns, for the resolution of the Jewish Question or rather, the series of issues problematizing Jewish-ness as uncertainty about citizenship, nation, and race from the eighteenth century onwards. The timing and context of Arendt’s attention to this question as a political theorist is important. Arendt was a German-Jewish émigré who survived twentieth-century totalitarianism and observed the unfolding of a new international law after each of the world wars. Her experience of Jewish exile and diaspora gave her a sense of the problem, the urge to understand its depths, and what might be needed in its place. International law is an important site for her attention even where law is adjuvant or ancillary to the broader sweep of her analytical project. (p. 232) Arendt repeatedly returns to international law expecting answers as a political thinker for the working out of tensions within the idea of nation for the sake of humankind and the plural life of politics.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of the Theory of International Law
EditorsAnne Orford, Florian Hoffmann
Place of PublicationUnited Kingdom
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages26
ISBN (Print)9780198701958
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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