Erika George and Natasha Wheatley


Friday, February 2, 2018    
11:30 am - 1:30 pm


Event Type

Erika George: Protecting Human Rights through Rankings and Reporting: Corporate Social Responsibility and Social Media Corporations

This paper examines the emergence and evolution of selected ranking and reporting frameworks in the expanding realm of business and human rights advocacy.  It explores how indicators in the form of rankings and reports evaluating the conduct of transnational corporate actors can serve as regulatory tools with potential to bridge a global governance gap that often places human rights at risk. Specifically, this paper examines the relationship of transnational corporations in the internet communications technology sector (ICT sector) to human rights and the risks presented to the right to freedom of expression and the right to privacy when ICT sector companies comply with government demands to disclose user data or to conceal information users seek.  Specifically, it explores the controversial role of transnational ICT corporations in state censorship and surveillance practices. The paper explains how conflicts over corporate complicity in alleged abuses served to catalyze change and lead to the creation of the Global Network Initiative, a private multi-stakeholder project and the Ranking Digital Rights Initiative, an industry independent market-based information effort. Both aim to promote more responsible business practices in the social media industry sector. In conclusion, the paper offers a comparative analysis of recent ways corporations in the sector are attempting to incorporate rights concerns and the impetus for taking on issues related to human rights.

Erika George (Law, Utah) Erika George is a Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Center for Global Justice at the University of Utah. Her research interests include globalization and the indivisible, interdependent, and interrelated nature of civil liberties and socio-economic rights; cultural pluralism and rights universalism; gender violence and gender equality; justice and peace promotion in post-conflict societies; environmental justice; and the use of documentary film in human rights advocacy and education. Her current research explores the responsibility of transnational corporations to respect international human rights and various efforts to hold business enterprises accountable for alleged abuses.



Natasha Wheatley – Collective Rights In and Against International Law: Central Europe as an (Inter)National Legal Laboratory

This paper tracks the idea of nations as legal persons between imperial and international law in Central Europe. How might “nations” possess and defend rights? We can trace an evolving jurisprudence on the question first as part of Habsburg constitutional law, and then in relation to the international minorities regime guaranteed by the League of Nations in the wake of the empire’s collapse. At issue was not only the corporate legal personhood of these non-state collectives, but also the nature of sovereignty and its relationship to territory. In both imperial and interwar Central Europe, many jurists argued that the region’s particularities – its dense intermingling and overlayering of languages, cultures, and religions – demanded a new sort of international law, one more fluid and less beholden to the fixities of territory. If people were dispersed and mobile, could law be so too? I show how conceptions of collective rights repeatedly spiraled off into bold re-imaginings of the very idea of international law, as a string of thinkers proposed different iterations of an “internal international law” or “internal supranational legal order.”

Natasha Wheatley (Princeton, History) is an historian of modern European and international history, with a specialization in nineteenth- and twentieth-century legal and intellectual history. Her research explores the conceptual history of rights, sovereignty and legal personality, as well as the politics and practices of legal knowledge. She is especially interested in the mythic and affective dimensions of law, as well as in time and temporality. My current book project, The Temporal Life of States: Sovereignty, Legal Knowledge, and the Archive of Empire traces the entanglement of constitutional and international law in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the afterlives of imperial law in the interwar international order. In recovering the Austro-Hungarian jurisprudence on state survival within empire, it draws Central European history into the global frame of new scholarship on legal pluralism, empire and quasi-sovereignty. At the same time, it tracks the transfer of rights between old world orders and new, thereby recasting our understanding of the settlement of 1919. Central Europe emerges as a foundational space for those interested in the broader twentieth-century history of the birth and death of states in international law. She is also at work on a second project on the intellectual history of interwar international law that focuses on questions of legal subjectivity and personhood. Earlier research on the League of Nations’ mandate system has appeared in Past and Present and elsewhere.


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