23 September 2019

Jessica M. MARGLIN, La nationalité en procès : droit international privé et monde méditerranéen (Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales LXXIII (2018), No. 1)

(source: cairn)

This article uses a single, transnational legal case that played out between Italy and Tunisia in the 1870s and 1880s to tell a truly global history of international law—that is, one that goes beyond the boundaries of the West. Samama v. Samama was a fabulously complicated case that dragged on in Italian courts for almost a decade. The crux of the legal arguments concerned the nationality of Nissim Samama, a Jew born in Tunis; Samama’s nationality, in turn, would determine which legal system regulated his estate. The Italian Civil Code enshrined respect for the national law of a foreigner, but such foreigners were presumed to be Western. A case involving the national law of Tunisia and the status of Jews called the very foundations of the international legal system into question. In putting Samama’s nationality on trial, the case opened up debate over fissures in the emerging theory of international law: How could non-Western states like Tunisia fit into an international legal order? How did Islamic law intersect with international law? What was the status of Jewish nationhood in a world increasingly based on exclusive nationalities? The Samama case offers access to the voices of European international lawyers debating the ambiguities of their field, as well as those of Maghrebis articulating their own vision of international law. The resulting arguments exposed tensions inherent to an international legal system uncomfortably balanced between universalism and Western particularism.
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