Sovereignty, Natural law and the Ironies of Decolonization: India and the Tokyo Trial (1946-48)
We are excited to present Prof. Milinda Banerjee as part of our CeMEAS Conversations. In this video we discuss about sovereignty, natural law and the ironies of decolonization, through the analysis of the Tokyo Trial in 1946-48.
Is the demand for codified international criminal justice antithetical to the demand for agonistic decolonization of global political, military, and economic power? Or can the establishment of global norms of justice be made compatible with, and even grounded upon, anti-colonial and democratic interventions? By analysing Indian involvement in the Tokyo Trial (1946-48), this paper foregrounds some of the key complexities at stake in the dialectics between global norm-building and anti-colonial agonism. While existing scholarship has mainly dwelt upon legal and political history, I draw upon methodological debates in the nascent field of global intellectual history to sharply focus on the tense relation between sovereignty and natural law which mediated discussions on justice in relation to colonialism, in the Tokyo moment as well as in its long aftermath. I give particular attention to the dissenting Indian judge at the trial, Radhabinod Pal (1886-1967), and contextualize his controversial judgment in relation to (anti-) colonial politics and justice, not merely in relation to the Japanese Empire – and the decades-old Indian engagement with Japanese models of sovereignty – but also in relation to British India, Dutch Indonesia, French Indochina, and Korea.
Milinda Banerjee is LMU Research Fellow from February 2017 to January 2019, as well as Assistant Professor in the Department of History at Presidency University (Kolkata, India). He defended his PhD in Heidelberg University (November 2014). His dissertation, which offered an intellectual history of concepts and practices of rulership and sovereignty in colonial India (with a primary focus on Bengal, ca. 1858-1947), is now forthcoming as a book. His research project at LMU is titled ‘Sovereignty versus Natural Law? The Tokyo Trial in Global Intellectual History’. Banerjee specializes in the intersections of South Asian and global intellectual history, and is the author of several journal articles and book chapters, and the co-editor of the volume, Transnational Histories of the ‘Royal Nation’ (Palgrave, 2017).
Interivew: Julia C. Schneider
CeMEAS Conversation Editors: Sarah Eaton & Katja Pessl