Rechtskulturen Colloquium
Mon 10 Jun 2013 | 18:00–20:00

Forum Shopping, Anxiety, and the Ottoman Capitulations

Will Hanley; Comment: Umut Özsu (University of Manitoba)

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Juristische Fakultät, Room E25, Unter den Linden 9, 10099 Berlin

The phenomenon of forum shopping is a locus of anxiety for historians and legal scholars. In law, the practice is typically condemned as an abuse, one that the field of conflict of laws seeks to curb. In the historical literature, forum shopping is alternately treated as a mark of perfidy or a sign of triumphant agency against power. Each approach casts forum shopping as a transgression.

Historical and legal accounts of the Capitulations, a pluralist legal system operating in the Ottoman empire between the fifteenth and the twentieth centuries, exemplify this anxiety. This paper examines contradictory doctrinal explanations of the Capitulations, which are further contradicted by evidence of how the Capitulations worked in practice. It argues that the worries of Ottoman legal reformers, international lawyers, and modern day historians derive from the constrained legal frames of the modern nation-state system. Anxieties occasioned by the Ottoman capitulations, in turn, expose certain limitations in modern international law.

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