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Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
March 2024
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Book description

The concept of territory is central in international law, but a detailed analysis of how the concept is used in both discourse and practice has been lacking until now. Rather than reproducing the established understanding of territoriality within the international legal order, this study suggests that the discipline of international law relies on an outmoded spatial paradigm. Gail Lythgoe argues for a complete update and overhaul of our understanding of territory and space, to engage more effectively with key processes, structures and actors relevant to contemporary global governance. In this new theoretical account of an essential aspect of public international law, she argues that territory is a dynamic social reality created by the exercise of power. Territories are constituted by the practices of a more diverse array of actors than is acknowledged. As a result, functions are re-assembling in territories constituted by state and non-state actors alike.


‘Building on debates in geography and social theory, Gail Lythgoe provides a powerful reorientation for our understanding of territory in the 21st century. A fundamental challenge to international law, the importance of this book for our contemporary moment means it deserves an audience far beyond; a crucial contribution to the debates from which it takes its inspiration.’

Stuart Elden - Professor of Political Theory and Geography, University of Warwick

‘Since modern thought grounded the human self on earth, territorialising has been a central mode of thinking. International law has been no exception to that. Gail Lythgoe, in her groundbreaking intervention, comes to show how some spaces are recognised and others are made invisible by the territorialising thinking of international lawyers, inviting us to reinvent international legal geographies.’

‘The Rebirth of Territory invites us to rethink one of international law’s defining concepts. Gail Lythgoe transcends the often stale debates about 'title' and alleged 'ends of geography’. She shows that territory never goes away and yet is always socially constructed - and in so doing, greatly enriches our geographical imaginary. This is a significant achievement.

Christian J. Tams - Chair of International Law, University of Glasgow. Director, Glasgow Centre for International Law and Security

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  • 1 - Introduction
    pp 1-29


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