Statehood under Water

marzo 7, 2017

Statehood under Water es el título del libro de Alejandra Torres Camprubí, publicado hace unos meses por la editorial Brill. En una entrada anterior prometí compartir el prólogo que escribí para el libro. Aquí está, a modo de invitación a su lectura.


Statehood under Water is the title of Alejandra Torres’ book, published just a few months ago by Brill publishers. In a previous post, I promised to share this page, written as a prologue for the book:

The compelling title of this book reminds me of the story once told by David Foster Wallace about those two young fishes greeted by an older fish with a “Morning, boys, how’s the water?” The young fishes continued swimming and, after a while, one of them asked, “What the hell is water?” The question urges us to reflect on how we think about things omnipresent, to pay attention to the elements and conditions of our very existence that are taken for granted most of the time and therefore somehow invisible, as it happens with the absence of camels in the Arabian Nights, as reported wittily by Jorge Luis Borges.

The allegory chosen by Alejandra Torres Camprubí belongs to such kind of endeavour: ‘Statehood under water’ is not just another international law interpretation of the sinking island image; the author’s sophisticated research defies the ways in which we think about the Statehood in the anthropocene –a powerful word that has encountered her at a late stage of her passionate intellectual voyage to provide a new persuasive contextual meaning to the whole argument. Indeed, her study of the effects of climate change and sea-level rise on the continuity of Pacific Island States reaches beyond the mere rigorous analysis of the crucial challenges facing these particular islands. The book certainly achieves such goal, most significant for the Pacific Island States, but also offers a mature and complex revision of the exclusionary Westphalian theory of statehood and its elements, which I predict will frame quite a few discussions on possible new forms of legal personality in international law, including entities with provocative names such as ‘water states’.

With this timely book, Alejandra Torres Camprubí joins the many contemporary scholarly debates on the concerns about the adequacy of international law to face the challenges of the anthropocene. Her careful analysis of different scenarios of partial and total de-territorialization and de-population, together with the concept of governments in exile are exemplary, but do not lead the author to an incautious conclusion. On the contrary, Alejandra Torres Camprubí avoids categorical answers about the continuity of the Pacific Island States, and therefore gives proper consideration and space to the normative evolution of the ‘sinking island paradigm’ and the future legal scenarios of the international law of the anthropocene.

I have been fortunate to witness the birth and progress of this book, which is based on the doctoral thesis that Alejandra Torres Camprubí successfully defended at the University Autónoma of Madrid in 2014. Now, I am impressed by the balanced structure of the book, its refined analyses and learned discussions; most importantly, I am pleased to know that everyone will have the chance to learn from this book and enjoy this momentous scholarly contribution to some fundamental questions of international law.

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