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SOVEREIGNTY AS A MOTOR OF GLOBAL CONCEPTUAL TRAVEL: SANSKRITIC EQUIVALENTS OF “LAW” IN BENGALI DISCURSIVE PRODUCTION

  • MILINDA BANERJEE (a1)
Abstract

How may one imagine the global travel of legal concepts, thinking through models of diffusion and translation, as well as through obstruction, negation, and dialectical transfiguration? This article offers some reflections by interrogating discourses (intertextually woven with Sanskritic invocations) produced by three celebrated Bengalis: the nationalist littérateur Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay (1838–94), the Rajavamshi “lower-caste” peasant leader Panchanan Barma (1866–1935), and the international jurist Radhabinod Pal (1886–1967). These actors evidently took part in projects of vernacularizing (and thereby globalizing through linguistic–conceptual translation) legal–political frameworks of state sovereignty. They produced ideas of nexus between sovereignty, law, and “divine” lawgiving activity, which resemble as well as diverge from notions of political theology associated with the German jurist Carl Schmitt. Simultaneously, these actors critiqued coercive impositions of state-backed positive law and sovereign violence, often in the name of globally oriented concepts of “ethical”/natural law, theology, and capacious forms of solidarity, including categories like “all beings,” “self/soul,” “humanity,” and “world.” I argue that “sovereignty,” as a metonym for concrete practices of power as well as a polyvalent conceptual signifier, thus dialectically provoked the globalization of modern legal intellection, including in the extra-European world.

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References
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1 I use the imagery of “motor” in a heuristic way, and not as an all-encompassing explanation for change. Christopher Bayly has criticized deterministic attempts to locate “prime movers” behind global historical change, but deploys the image of “motors of change”: Bayly, C. A., The Birth of the Modern World, 1780–1914: Global Connections and Comparisons (Malden, 2004), 58, 473–5.

2 Sartori, Andrew, Bengal in Global Concept History: Culturalism in the Age of Capital (Chicago, 2008); Sartori, “Global Intellectual History and the History of Political Economy,” in Moyn, Samuel and Sartori, Andrew, eds., Global Intellectual History (New York, 2013), 110–33; Sartori, Liberalism in Empire: An Alternative History (Oakland, 2014).

3 I draw here on Schmitt, Carl, The Concept of the Political (Chicago, 2007; first published 1927, 1932); and more idiosyncratically, on Schmitt, The Nomos of the Earth: In the International Law of the Jus Publicum Europaeum (New York, 2003; first published 1950, 1974).

4 E.g., Mukhopadhyay, Anindita, Behind the Mask: The Cultural Definition of the Legal Subject in Colonial Bengal (1715–1911) (Delhi, 2006); Mukherjee, Mithi, India in the Shadows of Empire: A Legal and Political History, 1774–1950 (Delhi, 2010).

5 For a recent historiographic overview see Lubin, Timothy, Davis, Donald R. Jr, and Krishnan, Jayanth K., eds., Hinduism and Law: An Introduction (Cambridge, 2010).

6 Schmitt, Carl, Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty (Cambridge, MA, 1985), 36.

7 Agamben, Giorgio, The Kingdom and the Glory: For a Theological Genealogy of Economy and Government (Stanford, 2011).

8 Yelle, Robert A., The Language of Disenchantment: Protestant Literalism and Colonial Discourse in British India (New York, 2013).

9 Fitzpatrick, Peter, “Legal Theology: Law, Modernity and the Sacred,” Seattle University Law Review 32/2 (2008), 321–41.

10 Martha Merrill Umphrey, Austin Sarat, and Lawrence Douglas, “The Sacred in Law: An Introduction,” in Sarat, Austin, Douglas, Lawrence, and Umphrey, Martha Merrill, eds., Law and the Sacred (Stanford, 2007), 1–27, at 20. See also Sullivan, Winnifred Fallers, Yelle, Robert A., and Taussig-Rubbo, Mateo, eds., After Secular Law (Stanford, 2011).

11 E.g. Anghie, Antony, Imperialism, Sovereignty and the Making of International Law (Cambridge, 2004); Benton, Lauren, A Search for Sovereignty: Law and Geography in European Empires, 1400–1900 (New York, 2010); Mantena, Karuna, Alibis of Empire: Henry Maine and the Ends of Liberal Imperialism (Princeton, 2010); Fitzmaurice, Andrew, Sovereignty, Property and Empire, 1500–2000 (Cambridge, 2014).

12 E.g. Koskenniemi, Martti, The Gentle Civilizer of Nations: The Rise and Fall of International Law, 1870–1960 (Cambridge, 2004); Moyn, Samuel, The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History (Cambridge, MA, 2010); Crowe, David M., War Crimes, Genocide, and Justice: A Global History (New York, 2014).

13 Sartori, Liberalism in Empire.

14 Lorca, Arnulf Becker, Mestizo International Law: A Global Intellectual History, 1842–1933 (Cambridge, 2014).

15 Ibid., 22–3.

16 Samuel Moyn, “On the Nonglobalization of Ideas,” in Moyn and Sartori, Global Intellectual History, 187–204.

17 Discussions on transtemporality, as advanced in David Armitage, “What's the Big Idea? Intellectual History and the Durée, Longue,” History of European Ideas 38/4 (2012), 493507, are relevant here.

18 Kapila, Shruti, “Global Intellectual History and the Indian Political,” in McMahon, Darrin M. and Moyn, Samuel, eds., Rethinking Modern European Intellectual History (New York, 2014), 253–74.

19 Banerjee, Milinda, The Mortal God: Imagining the Sovereign in Colonial India (Delhi, 2018), chap. 5.

20 Bankimchandra has been well researched by historians and literary scholars (including from the aspect of legal–cultural history, as in Mukhopadhyay, Behind the Mask). But to the best of my knowledge he has never been studied through a Schmittian approach of political–legal theology. For reason of space, I have not analyzed his novels here.

21 Lipner, Julius J., “Introduction,” in Chatterji, Bankimcandra, Anandamath, or The Sacred Brotherhood (New York, 2005), 1012.

22 Buckland, C. E., Dictionary of Indian Biography (London, 1906), 7980; Bose, Anjali, Samsad Bangali Charitabhidhan (Calcutta, 2013), 446.

23 Chattopadhyay, Bankimchandra, Bankim Rachanavali, vol. 2, ed. Bagal, Jogesh Chandra (Calcutta, 1994), 95. Across this essay, I transliterate as ri (following Radhabinod Pal).

24 E.g. ibid., 8, 10, 12–19, 27, 30–34, 85, 102, 213–14, 263–8, 329–30, 338, 344, 350, 817, 844–5, 886.

25 Ibid., 494.

26 Ibid., 454, 827–8.

27 Ibid., 515–16.

28 Ibid., 508.

29 Ibid., 538–9.

30 Ibid., 704.

31 Ibid., 643–4.

32 Ibid., 742–7.

33 Ibid., 587; also 224–5.

34 See, for example, Banerjee, Milinda, “‘All This Is Indeed Brahman’: Rammohun Roy and a ‘Global’ History of the Rights-Bearing Self,” Asian Review of World Histories 3/1 (2015), 81112; Christian Lee Novetzke, , The Quotidian Revolution: Vernacularization, Religion, and the Premodern Public Sphere in India (New York, 2016).

35 Chattopadhyay, Bankim Rachanavali, 508, 535, 557–8, 572–602, 630, 703–4.

36 Ibid., 331–51, 506, 531, 558, 586, 591–3.

37 Ibid., 438, 452, 475–6, 503, 531, 548–9, 555–9, 564–5, 586–7, 597–8, 628–31, 694, 706, 730–34, 743.

38 Banerjee, The Mortal God, chap. 3.

39 Ibid., chap. 4; Basu, Swaraj, Dynamics of a Caste Movement: The Rajbansis of North Bengal , 1910–1947 (Delhi, 2003); Barma, Sukhbilas, Indomitable Panchanan: An Objective Study on Rai Sahib Panchanan Barma (Delhi, 2017).

40 Banerjee, Mortal God, chap. 4, Basu, Dynamics of a Caste Movement; and Barma, Indomitable Panchanan; Barman, Upendranath, Thakur Panchanan Barmar Jivanacharita (Jalpaiguri, 1980), 116, 60–78.

41 House of Commons, Parliamentary Papers, East India (Constitutional Reforms), Report on Indian Constitutional Reforms (1918), 5.

42 Samiti, Kshatriya, San 1324 Saler Ashtam Varsher Vritta-vivaran (Rangpur, 1918), 5055.

43 Ibid..

44 E.g. ibid., 7, 27–46; Samiti, Kshatriya, Tritiya Varsher Vrittavivarani, Chaturtha Varsher Adhiveshan (Rangpur, 1913), 1, 814; Samiti, Navam Varsher arthat San 1325 Saler Vrittavivarani (Rangpur, 1919), 20–21, 49–59; Samiti, Ekadash Sammilani, Karyavivarani (Rangpur, 1919), 30–33; Samiti, Dasham Varshik Adhiveshan, Karya Vivaran (Rangpur, 1919), 47–53; Samiti, Chaturdash Varsher arthat San 1329 Saler Vrittavivaran (Rangpur, 1923), 2, 32–9; Samiti, Ashtadash Varshik Adhiveshan, Karya-vivaran (Rangpur, 1927), 9–25, 57–61.

45 Samiti, Ashtadash, 21–4.

46 Basu, Dynamics of a Caste Movement; and Barma, Indomitable Panchanan, highlight aspects of social hierarchy in Rajavamshi politics.

47 Samiti, San 1324, 51–2.

48 Basu, Dynamics of a Caste Movement; Banerjee, The Mortal God, chap. 4.

49 This section draws on Banerjee, Milinda, “Does International Criminal Justice Require a Sovereign? Historicising Radhabinod Pal's Tokyo Judgment in Light of His ‘Indian’ Legal Philosophy,” in Bergsmo, Morten, Wui Ling, Cheah, and Ping, Yi, eds., Historical Origins of International Criminal Law, vol. 2 (Brussels, 2014), 67117; and Banerjee, “Decolonization and Subaltern Sovereignty: India and the Tokyo Trial,” in von Lingen, Kerstin, ed., War Crimes Trials in the Wake of Decolonization and Cold War in Asia, 1945–1956 (London, 2016), 6991. See these essays for detailed discussions on the historiography about Pal and the Tokyo Trial.

50 Banerjee, “International Criminal Justice,” 72–86.

51 Pal, Radhabinod, The Hindu Philosophy of Law in the Vedic and Post-Vedic Times Prior to the Institutes of Manu (Calcutta, 1927), 7.

52 Pal, Radhabinod, The History of Hindu Law in the Vedic Age and in Post-Vedic Times Down to the Institutes of Manu (Calcutta, 1958), v.

53 Ibid., 2–6, 219–21.

54 Pal, The Hindu Philosophy of Law, 1–2 (quote), 52; Pal, History, iv, 109–10, 144.

55 Pal, The Hindu Philosophy of Law, 76; Pal, The History of Hindu Law, 160.

56 Pal, The Hindu Philosophy of Law, 72–3.

57 Ibid., 6–10, 55–60; Pal, The History of Hindu Law, 146–8.

58 International Military Tribunal for the Far East, The United States of America and Others v. Araki Sadao and Others, Judgment of The Hon'ble Mr. Justice Pal, Member from India, at www.legal-tools.org/en/go-to-database/ltfolder/0_29521, 1226.

59 E.g. Shklar, Judith N., Legalism: An Essay on Law, Morals and Politics (Cambridge, MA, 1964), 179–90; Kopelman, Elizabeth S., “Ideology and International Law: The Dissent of the Indian Justice at the Tokyo War Crimes Trial,” New York University Journal of International Law and Politics 23/2 (1990–91), 373444; Totani, Yuma, The Tokyo War Crimes Trial: The Pursuit of Justice in the Wake of World War II (Cambridge, MA, 2009), 218–62.

60 E.g. Sellars, Kirsten, “Imperfect Justice at Nuremberg and Tokyo,” European Journal of International Law 21/4 (2011), 1085–1102, at 1096; also Boister, Neil and Cryer, Robert, The Tokyo International Military Tribunal: A Reappraisal (Oxford, 2008), 285–91.

61 E.g. Nandy, Ashis, “The Other Within: The Strange Case of Radhabinod Pal's Judgment on Culpability,” New Literary History 23/1 (1992), 4567; Hill, Barry, “Reason and Lovelessness: Tagore, War Crimes, and Justice Pal,” Postcolonial Studies 18/2 (2015), 145–60.

62 Pal judgment, 186.

63 Ibid., 239–40, original emphasis.

64 Ibid., 55.

65 Ibid., 60–61.

66 Banerjee, “Decolonization and Subaltern Sovereignty.”

67 Pal, judgment, 10–15, 145.

68 Pal, The History of Hindu Law, 269, 274.

69 Banerjee, “International Criminal Justice,” 109–12.

70 Radhabinod Pal, Report on the Fifth Session of the Asian–African Legal Consultative Committee (Rangoon, January 1962), 153–4, at http://legal.un.org/docs/?path=../ilc/documentation/english/a_cn4_146.pdf&lang=EFS, accessed 24 Jan. 2017.

71 Banerjee, “International Criminal Justice,” 83–5, 116–17.

72 Pal, The History of Hindu Law, 171–2, 282.

73 Subrahmanyam, Sanjay, “Global Intellectual History beyond Hegel and Marx,” History and Theory 54/1 (2015), 126–37.

74 Moyn, “On the Nonglobalization of Ideas,” 201.

75 Sellars, Kirsten, “Crimes against Peace” and International Law (Cambridge, 2013), 272–6.

76 Rotenstreich, Nathan, Order and Might (Albany, 1988), 42.

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