Lauren Benton,
"The Legal Logic of Conquest: Political Pluralism, Truces, and Colonial Violence"

The Seminar on Corporations and International Law

A 2017-2018 Mellon Sawyer Seminar

This seminar is conceptualized along three lines of comparison: chronological, methodological, and spatial. First, the seminar will interrogate historical perspectives on the development of the corporation, primarily concerned with tracing the genealogy of contemporary legal, economic, social, ethical, and political issues that surround it as well as the use (and abuse) of historical examples for understanding those contemporary problems. The second, very much related, approach will be to juxtapose varying disciplinary approaches, considering the implications of differing conceptions of evidence and method on how we even frame questions about the nature of the global corporation. How, for example, might a legal scholar’s notion of a corporate “person” differ, for example, from that of an anthropologist? What happens when an historian’s conception of the development of corporate power over time is put up against a geographer’s conception of its development over space? How do issues that seem fairly straightforward in law — limited liability or fiduciary responsibility, for example — appear when seen through the history of political thought, which has radically different perspectives on problems such as culpability or the nature of social compacts? Finally, we will look at these questions on a variety of scales and across geographical space, considering the ways in which transnational corporations are constituted from the very local to the broadly global. In this sense, we also hope the seminar will serve as a meditation not only on what but where it is, when seen in historical, interdisciplinary, and global context.

Full Seminar Description

Are corporations people, societies, or even governments? Do they have rights? If so, what are their civic, social, ethical, and political responsibilities? Our seminar will explore these questions, and many more.

The Seminar on Corporations and International Law also features a cross-listed course for graduate, professional, and advanced undergraduate students across the humanities and social sciences.