On fragments and geometry : the international legal order as metaphor and how it matters
Title: On fragments and geometry : the international legal order as metaphor and how it matters
Author: RAJKOVIC, Nikolas
Citation: Erasmus law review, 2013, Vol. 6, No. 1, pp. 6-16
This article engages the narrative of fragmentation in international law by asserting that legal academics and professionals have failed to probe more deeply into ‘fragmentation’ as a concept and, more specifically, as a spatial metaphor. The contention here is that however central fragmentation has been to analyses of contemporary international law, this notion has been conceptually assumed, ahistorically accepted and philosophically under-examined. The ‘fragment’ metaphor is tied historically to a cartographic rationality – and thus ‘reality’ – of all social space being reducible to a geometric object and, correspondingly, a planimetric map. The purpose of this article is to generate an appreciation among international lawyers that the problem of ‘fragmentation’ is more deeply rooted in epistemology and conceptual history. This requires an explanation of how the conflation of social space with planimetric reduction came to be constructed historically and used politically, and how that model informs representations of legal practices and perceptions of ‘international legal order’ as an inherently absolute and geometric. This implies the need to dig up and expose background assumptions that have been working to precondition a ‘fragmented’ characterization of worldly space. With the metaphor of ‘digging’ in mind, I draw upon Michel Foucault’s ‘archaeology of knowledge’ and, specifically, his assertion that epochal ideas are grounded by layers of ‘obscure knowledge’ that initially seem unrelated to a discourse. In the case of the fragmentation narrative, I argue obscure but key layers can be found in the Cartesian paradigm of space as a geometric object and the modern States’ imperative to assert (geographic) jurisdiction. To support this claim, I attempt to excavate the fragment metaphor by discussing key developments that led to the production and projection of geometric and planimetric reality since the 16th century.
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