Essex Public International Law Lecture: Terra/aqueous: Vexing Vents and Amphibious Legalities in the Anthropocene

Terra/aqueous: Vexing Vents and Amphibious Legalities in the Anthropocene

  • Wed 23 Feb 22

    17:00 - 18:30

  • Online


  • Event speaker

    Dr Surabhi Ranganathan University of Cambridge

  • Event type

    Lectures, talks and seminars
    Public International Law Lecture

  • Event organiser

    Essex Law School

Please join us for the latest instalment of the Essex Public International Law Lecture Series.

The Essex Public International Law Lecture Series welcomes you to to the latest instalment presented by Dr Surabhi Rangnathan and chaired by Emily Jones from the School of Law at the University of Essex.

Essex Public International Law Lecture: Terra/aqueous: Vexing Vents and Amphibious Legalities in the Anthropocene

This talk uses the ‘vexing’ liminality of ocean vents to think about how the law of the sea, and ongoing law-making processes, imagine and configure ocean space and ecologies. It begins with an account of the surprising discovery of vents in the late 1970s, at a time when negotiations over the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) were heading to a close. Vents, being both mineral-rich formations of manganese, copper, iron, nickel, cobalt, gold and silver, and densely inhabited by unique ecosystems (now much sought by biotech and pharmaceutical industries), were a potential gamechanger for these negotiations. They called into question the abstractions and classifications between land and water, life and matter, and mobility and immobility upon which the new law of the sea was being founded. But the discovery came a shade too late, and vents are, if at all, only obliquely comprehended in the UNCLOS text. Their growing importance, not least to different types of extractive interests, has spurred fresh efforts to better describe, classify and regulate the deep ocean. The ongoing processes vis-à-vis Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction at the UN and seabed mining at the International Seabed Authority seek to absorb vents within suitably tailored regimes that can make sense of the particular ways in which new scientific knowledge confronts the existing law of the sea. However, as I will argue, both processes amount to legal ‘fixes’ that discount the potential that vents offer to open up how we approach the ocean, its history and political economy. 


About the speaker:

Surabhi Ranganathan is Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge and Co-Acting Director of the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law. Her writings on the oceans, the history and politics of international law, treaties, and global governance have been published in, among others, the European Journal of International Law, the British Yearbook of International Law, the American Journal of International Law, the Cambridge Law Journal, and the Journal of the History of International Law. Ranganathan is also the author of Strategically Created Treaty Conflicts and the Politics of International Law (Cambridge University Press), a study of international legal thought and practice, exploring treaty conflicts in nuclear governance, the law of the sea, and international criminal justice. Her current work seeks to unsettle what we take as the givens in relation to the spatial zones, resource allocations and functional jurisdictions effected by the law of the sea; and extend the history and critique of international law into new areas: ocean depths and bottoms, global commons, marine infrastructures, and techno-utopian imaginaries. 

About the Essex Public International Law Lecture Series

The Essex Public International Law lecture series is founded, hosted and co-chaired by Dr Meagan Wong and Dr Emily Jones based in the School of Law. This is a weekly lecture series featuring judges of international courts and tribunals, leading academics, and practitioners of international law from governmental service, international organizations, and private practice from across the globe. The series prides itself on building on two important intellectual traditions of international law: formalism and international legal practice, and international legal theory including postcolonial and feminist perspectives. 

We welcome all students, academics, practitioners and legal advisors to join us.

How to register

You can register here for the event which will be held on zoom.

For further information

Please contact Dr Meagan Wong, meagan.wong@essex.ac.uk and Dr Emily Jones, e.jones@essex.ac.uk.