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Netherlands International Law Review

, Volume 66, Issue 3, pp 441–473 | Cite as

Primal Scene to Anthropocene: Narrative and Myth in International Environmental Law

  • Justin RoseEmail author
  • Margaretha Wewerinke-Singh
  • Jessica Miranda
Article

Abstract

In recent years much jurisprudential affection has coalesced around the concept of the Anthropocene. International lawyers have enlisted among the ranks of humanities and social science authors embracing this proposed scientific time category, and putting it to work. This essay draws on sources from a range of fields including legal anthropology and critical legal theory in re-examining the reception of the Anthropocene in international law, focusing on its mythical qualities. We demonstrate how the Anthropocene both reinforces and meshes perfectly with the three narrative pillars of contemporary international environmental law: evolutionary progress; universal evaluations of nature and constructions of legal subjectivity; and legal monism. The Anthropocene, like few ideas in modern scholarship, is quite expressly a tale of origins explaining and legitimating its narrators’ place in the universe. Joining signposts such as The Tragedy of the Commons, the Myth of the Anthropocene embeds collective memories eclipsing the need to reconsider complex and contested histories in understanding the contemporary roles of law in mediating people’s relations with nature. In response, we call for a more inclusive account of environmental law that draws on diversity rather than universality, with particular sensitivity to those perspectives that are inadvertently excluded from the Anthropocene discourse.

Keywords

Anthropocene International environmental law Environmental justice Critical legal theory Legal pluralism 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The authors are grateful to Tejas Rao for research assistance, and to Colin Leo for his contribution to this article.

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Copyright information

© T.M.C. Asser Press 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Justin Rose
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Margaretha Wewerinke-Singh
    • 1
    • 3
  • Jessica Miranda
    • 3
  1. 1.University of the South PacificPort VilaVanuatu
  2. 2.Australian Centre for Agriculture and LawUniversity of New EnglandArmidaleAustralia
  3. 3.Leiden UniversityLeidenThe Netherlands

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