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Doctoral dissertation project of Lucas Brang

The Discipline of International Law in Modern China (working title)

Situated at the intersection of international law and intellectual history, Lucas Brang’s doctoral project traces the development of international legal discourse in early-twentieth-century China. Drawing on an array of primary sources in Chinese and European languages – scholarly texts, memoirs, archival records, international treaties – it offers a novel account of how international law emerged as an academic discipline and professional practice within the semi-colonial setting of modern China. Apart from interrogating the role of foreign-trained jurists as their nation’s diplomatic agents and catalyzers of social transformation, the dissertation also examines the interplay between legal regimes, inter-imperial competition, and civilizational discourse in a broader Eurasian context. Looking beyond the familiar theme of Chinese resistance to the “unequal treaties,” it sheds light on structural similarities and forms of solidarity between China and various other semi-colonized societies, such as Siam or the Ottoman empire. Finally, questioning both prevailing Eurocentric and Chinese national narratives, the dissertation shows how legal forms of empire were not only contested but also internalized by non-Western elites.

Short biography

Lucas Brang is a doctoral candidate at the Chair of Chinese Legal Culture, University of Cologne. From 2019 to 2022, he received a Marie Curie research fellowship of the European Union, as part of which he was affiliated with the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He is currently completing his dissertation on the discipline of international law in twentieth century China, which is supervised by Prof. Björn Ahl (Cologne) and Prof. Samuli Seppänen (Hong Kong). Lucas’ research interests lie in modern Chinese legal, intellectual, and conceptual history, with a focus on how the globalization of political and legal thought affects debates about constitutionalism and global order in China.

After studying Chinese and Law in Cologne, Nanjing, and Beijing, Lucas obtained his M.A. in 2018. As an undergraduate and graduate student, he received scholarships of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the China Scholarship Council, and the German Academic Scholarship Foundation (Studienstiftung). Besides several academic posts, he gained practical experience as an intern at the German Federal Foreign Office and as a translator from Chinese into German.

Contact: lbrang(at)smail.uni-koeln.de

Peer reviewed articles:

Review essays:

Academic blogs:

Conference papers/ presentations:

  • “After (in)equality: Liberal conditionality, informal empire, and the debate about China’s ‘new treaties,’ 1921-1928,” Symposium “Legal orders under pressure: Non-Western experiences of legal transformations in the 19th and early 20th centuries,” Max-Planck-Institute for Legal History and Theory, 7 to 9 December 2022, Frankfurt a.M./Vienna.
  • “State, market, and legal form: The rise of Chinese ordo-legalism,” European China Law Studies Association annual conference, 21 to 23 September 2022, Copenhagen.
  • “The ‘China question’: Historical revisionism and narratives of crisis in international legal discourse,” Workshop “China and International Law,” 1 August 2022, Cologne.
  • “Mapping the field of global legal history in contemporary China: Conceptual binaries and ideological controversies,” Workshop “Chinese Positions on Constitutional and International Legal History,” 23 June 2022, Erlangen.
  • “Lawyering for a half-sovereign state: A sociology of international legal knowledge in republican China,” European China Law Studies Association annual conference, 24-26 September 2021, Warsaw.
  • “When National Revanchism meets Disciplinary Self-Doubt: China’s Rise and the Politics of Global Legal History,” Online Symposium “China and Global History,” 1-3 September 2021, Vienna.
  • “The Lexicon of Particularity in Contemporary China – From Global Constitutionalism to Constitutional Anti-Globalism…and Back?”, Online Webinar organized by “Global Constitutionalism” (Cambridge University Press), 5 June 2020.
  • “Chinese Political Constitutionalism and the Antinomies of Legal Globalisation,” European China Law Studies Association annual conference, 26-28 July 2019, Durham (UK).

Cover photo: Wellington Koo (Gu Weijun), renowned Chinese international lawyer and diplomat, portrayed as a young man in 1912 (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C., USA, https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2002717877/) // Potrait photo: Patric Fouad

a.r.t.e.s. EUmanities has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 713600.

Call: H2020-MSCA-COFUND-2015 | Proposal: 713600 – artes EUmanities
CORDIS: http://cordis.europa.eu/project/rcn/203182_de.html