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Weekly Roundup: June 23, 2023


At the Blog

On Tuesday, Aslı Ü. Bâli and Ntina Tzouvala kicked off a symposium on Economic Sanctions and Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL), presented in collaboration with the Yale Journal of International Law. The pieces collected in this Symposium demonstrate that sanctions—especially the unilateral sanctions levied by hegemonic countries, like the United States—can operate as a means of economic warfare, contributing to, as opposed to constraining, violence and humanitarian crises. By bringing together the perspectives of LPE and TWAIL, Bâli and Tzouvala write, we hope to shed light on how international law enables the weaponization (and, thereby, deepening) of economic asymmetry, and to explore the possibility of using law to resist this “economic weapon.”

Also on Tuesday, over at YJIL, UN Special Rapporteur Alena Douhan argued that the mushrooming of unilateral sanctions, coupled with widespread over-compliance and ineffective humanitarian exemptions, has led to serious human rights violations in targeted countries, thus violating international law. As she writes, “Confusing and overlapping sanctions legislation, threats of secondary sanctions, civil and criminal penalties, maximum pressure campaigns, broad interpretations of sanctions regimes, reputational risks resulting in the growing fear of sanctions, the risk of losing access to the markets of sanctioning countries, and the prospect of fines and imprisonment are all contributing to the growth of zero-risk policies by private actors, including banks, delivery and insurance companies, donors, and humanitarian intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations. These actors prefer not to engage with anyone related to the countries under sanctions even if such engagement is not explicitly prohibited by sanctions regimes.”

On Wednesday, Jessica Whyte continued the symposium, explaining how the abstract mechanisms through which economic coercion inflicts harm have made it difficult to identify causation, let alone to prosecute its agents under international law. As she writes, “The mechanisms that link a ban on financial transactions with a state oil company to the death of an unvaccinated child from a preventable communicable disease are not the normal stuff of international criminal justice. At a time when human rights NGOs rigorously count civilian deaths in armed conflicts, no equivalent accounting is available to victims of a war waged via exchange rates, inflation, and interest rates.” The law’s inability to perceive the harms caused by economic coercion was exacerbated, she argues, by the twinned rise of neoliberalism and an individualized human rights politics, which “generated a turn away from the concerns with economic coercion that animated post-colonial legal activism in the 1960s and 1970s towards an emphasis on direct imposition of pain on human bodies.”

And on Thursday, Maryam Jamshidi argued that economic sanctions have both depended upon and generated a new class of colonizers. As she writes, “Under older territorial forms of imperialism—which involved capturing foreign territories and transforming them into colonies—the ‘colonizer’ included government bureaucrats who developed and implemented colonial laws and policies, as well as private persons who lived and worked in the colony…. In this current moment of U.S. financial imperialism and economic sanctions, a host of ‘new’ colonizers have emerged. These colonizers include private plaintiffs holding unsatisfied civil judgments against so-called terrorists, terrorist organizations, or countries designated by the U.S. State Department as state sponsors of terrorism…. these new colonizers pillage in their own modern way, leveraging and expanding the U.S. government’s imperialist reach to attach and liquidate the sanctioned assets of foreign state and non-state actors often in or from the Global South.” 

In LPE Land

In the Atlantic, Sandeep Vaheesan has a new piece on an antitrust class action against makers of HIV/AIDS medications for using “pay for delay” tactics and the Supreme Court’s lenient treatment of this common collusive practice.

Over in Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, a series of authors, including Sabeel Rahman, Felicia Wong, and Darrick Hamilton, discuss the dawn of the new “productivist era” and lay out their visions for a productive, inclusive, and fair economy.

The Jain Family Institute released a new report on “The Repayment Pause and the Continuing Crisis of Non-repayment,” co-authored by Eduard Nilaj, Sérgio Pinto, Marshall Steinbaum, Laura Beamer. They find that the repayment pause caused more student debt to be repaid than would otherwise have been the case, the distributional effects of the pause were egalitarian on the basis of race & gender, and that borrowers whose payments were paused enjoyed greater financial wellbeing.

And to complete the creature double feature, over at Vox, Luke Herrine discusses how the Biden Administration should be preparing to respond should SCOTUS strike down their student loan forgiveness plan.

In a sneak peak of AI Now Institute’s forthcoming salon series on policy & strategy, Amy Kapczynski discusses an old idea that is getting new attention: “an FDA for AI.”

The Michigan Law Review released their annual book review issue. Either we love books (we do), or this one is a real banger (it is).

On June 26, at 2p ET, Dissent is holding a virtual roundtable on the Geopolitics of Industrial Policy, featuring Yakov Feygin, Daniela Gabor, Ho-fung Hung, Thea Riofrancos, and Quinn Slobodian.

In a new article, Darryl Li lays out an approach to legal training and anthropological scholarship that he calls ethnographic lawyering, which takes legal form as an object of anthropological analysis. This one’s for all you anthro-heads out there.