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Humanity at Sea
Maritime Migration and the Foundations of International Law


Part of Cambridge Studies in International and Comparative Law

  • Author: Itamar Mann, University of Haifa Faculty of Law, Israel
  • Date Published: September 2017
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781316602652

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About the Authors
  • This interdisciplinary study engages law, history, and political theory in a first attempt to crystallize the lessons the global 'refugee crisis' can teach us about the nature of international law. It connects the dots between the actions of Jewish migrants to Palestine after WWII, Vietnamese 'boatpeople', Haitian refugees seeking to reach Florida, Middle Eastern migrants and refugees bound to Australia, and Syrian refugees currently crossing the Mediterranean, and then legal responses by states and international organizations to these movements. Through its account of maritime migration, the book proposes a theory of human rights modelled around an encounter between individuals in which one of the parties is at great risk. It weaves together primary sources, insights from the work of twentieth-century thinkers such as Hannah Arendt and Emmanuel Levinas, and other legal materials to form a rich account of an issue of increasing global concern.

    • Will appeal to a broad and interdisciplinary audience
    • Highlights the underlying ethical dilemmas of migration policy
    • Contributes a new perspective to longstanding debates in jurisprudence
    • Contributes to the study of the history of one of the most high-profile policy issues
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'At a time when both Europeans and Americans speak of building walls to stop the flow of refugees, we are in desperate need of a new moral and legal vision. In Humanity at Sea, Itamar Mann offers that vision. A work brimming with insights, it will make us rethink the very foundations of international law.' Paul Kahn, Director, Orville H. Schell, Jr Center for International Human Rights, Yale Law School

    'In this lyrically written book, Mann throws light on the refugee condition through the metaphor of 'the universal boatperson'. The episodes he recounts of refugees at sea, spread over time and geography, amount to one of the most original discussions of these topics yet to appear.' Seyla Benhabib, Eugene Meyer Professor of Political Science and Philosophy, Yale University, Connecticut

    'In his exemplary study of migration past and present, Itamar Mann has responded to a topic of burning currency and moral importance with agile and profound theoretical sophistication, achieving a unique proposal for why human rights law is binding and should come to the rescue of the forlorn victims of history. Compelling, eloquent, and rich, Humanity at Sea is a must-read for ethicists, historians, and lawyers.' Samuel Moyn, Harvard Law School, and author of The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History

    'Mann's theory of the rights of encounter addresses the gap that many critical approaches have left unaddressed - the rights of the person at the border, of the person not yet present on the territory and within the community. It does so in a way that bridges demands of concreteness and universality: the 'rights of encounter' are concrete in that the moment of encounter between particular persons brings them about, and they are universal in that they arise from a sense of universal equality, which makes the mere knowledge of the other person's humanity sufficient for an obligation to save her life.' Dana Schmalz, The European Journal of International Law

    'I would recommend this book to those that are interested in maritime law, those interested in the refugee crisis, and those looking for a good read in general. Mann made great arguments and I learned about several events and atrocities that I hadn't heard of before.' Ashlee N. Williams, AmeriQuests (

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    Product details

    • Date Published: September 2017
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781316602652
    • length: 263 pages
    • dimensions: 230 x 153 x 14 mm
    • weight: 0.4kg
    • contains: 2 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction. Humanity washed ashore
    1. Flagless vessel
    2. What is a human rights claim?
    3. What is a human rights commitment?
    4. Between moral blackmail and moral risk
    5. The place where we stand
    6. Imagination and the human rights encounter
    Conclusion. The dual foundation of international law

  • Author

    Itamar Mann, University of Haifa Faculty of Law, Israel
    Itamar Mann is a legal scholar currently based at the University of Haifa Faculty of Law, Israel. His work focuses on international law and political theory. He has published in the areas of human rights, refugee and migration law, political theory, and international criminal law. He has also acted as an advocate on behalf of migrants and refugees as a lawyer in Tel Aviv. During 2009–10 he held a fellowship during which he reported for Human Rights Watch from Greece and Turkey.

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