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The subject in international law: The Administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority of Occupied Iraq and its Laws

Doctoral thesis
Authors Matilda Arvidsson
Date of public defense 2017-01-24
Opponent at public defense Professor Frederic Megret
ISBN 9789177531104 (print)
Publication year 2017
Published at
Language en
Keywords Folkrätt , Humanitär rätt , Rättshistoria , Rättsvetenskap , Ockupationer , Law History , Jurisprudence , Humanitarian law
Subject categories International law


In the wake of the war and occupation of Iraq, 2003–2004, international legal scholars struggled to understand and adequately describe the event and the law surrounding it. This study takes that situation of uncertainty as its point of departure, and it unfolds through an analysis of the material conditions and linguistic–rhetoric and affective–psychic registers through which the Administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) of occupied Iraq emerged as a legal subject in response to the international law of belligerent occupation and related law and policy. While pursuing the broader aim of theorizing the subject in international law, the study tells the story of how the Administrator of the CPA formulated a position for itself within the contemporary international law of belligerent occupation: the Lieber Code position. A historical source of law – domestic legislation regarding warfare and occupation originating from 1863 and the American Civil War – thus resurfaced as part of an international legal argument during the occupation of Iraq. Through an analysis of the occupation of Iraq I seek to understand how the Administrator was subjectified, what consequences this subjectification had, and how this example of subjectification alters our understanding of international law (if it does at all). This study seeks to understand the position that subjects like the Administrator occupy in international law. In doing this, I make a case for understanding international law and subjects as co-constituive. This is a subject who does not necessarily possess international legal personality but nonetheless thinks and produces international law through its everyday life and in doing so constitutes the substratum of what international law is and does. In terms of theory and method, the study draws on feminist legal jurisprudence and philosophy, psychoanalysis, and international law and its histories. It employs as its material the legal acts of the CPA in conjunction with a wide range of documents relating to the international law of belligerent occupation and related fields of law and policy specific to the occupation of Iraq. The main motivation and aim of the study is to engage critically with the field of the international law of belligerent occupation, scholarly debates related to it, and with the occupation of Iraq in order to make a contribution to the understanding of that event and its law. Moreover, its aim is to contribute to a jurisprudence of the subject in international law: to point to the importance of attending to subjects – as distinct from entities with international legal personality – when we, as international legal scholars and practitioners, struggle to understand, adequately describe, and respond to the events and the laws of our time.

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