© Nina Subin


Natasha Wheatley, Ph.D.


Princeton University

Born in 1984 in Sydney, Australia
Studied History at the University of Sydney and at Columbia University


The Temporal Life of States: Sovereignty at the Eclipse of Empire

"The Temporal Life of States" recasts the modern transformation of the world of states from the pivot point of Central Europe. It tracks a recurring set of questions about the legal birth and death of states, from the cradle of Austro-Hungarian constitutional law into the interwar international order and, beyond that, to the crisis of global decolonization that followed the Second World War.
The collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918 sparked what we might call the 20th century's first jurisprudence of decolonization. As the empire gave way to a series of independent states, debate raged about whether these polities were "new" states or "old" states, with all that implied for the succession of rights and duties. Yet the arguments leveled for and against sovereign discontinuity turned out to be the internationalization of a longstanding imperial jurisprudence on the status of the empire's component polities. Had formerly independent units like Hungary preserved a sort of suspended sovereignty through the long centuries of imperial rule – sleeping sovereignties that could be reawakened at the moment of empire's eclipse? By the era of global decolonization, such questions about the temporal life of states - about the legal meaning of their mortality and their endurance, their continuity and discontinuity - became central conundrums for international order. Tracing the problem of states-in-time from the mid-19th century through to the mid-20th, the project presents an unfamiliar prehistory of the international law of decolonization, as well as new ways of understanding Central Europe in the world.

Recommended Reading

Wheatley, Natasha. "Spectral Legal Personality in Interwar International Law: On New Ways of Not Being a State." Law and History Review 35, 3 (2017): 753-787.
-. "New Subjects in International Law and Order." In Internationalisms: A Twentieth-Century History, edited by Patricia Clavin and Glenda Sluga: 265-286. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017.
-. "Mandatory Interpretation: Legal Hermeneutics and the New International Order in Arab and Jewish Petitions to the League of Nations." Past and Present 227 (May 2015): 205-248.

Publications from the Fellows' Library

Wheatley, Natasha ( New York, NY, 2017)
Spectral legal personality in interwar international law : on new ways of not being a state

Wheatley, Natasha ( Oxford, 2015)
Mandatory interpretation : legal hermeneutics and the new international order in Arab and Jewish petitions to the League of Nations

Lectures on Film 11/24/19

Of Ghosts, Slaves, and Embryos: International Law and the Metaphorical Imagination

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Of Ghosts, Slaves, and Embryos: International Law and the Metaphorical Imagination



Context - Frame - Environment


Tuesday Colloquium06/02/20