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Abstract

Despite the ever-growing literature that turns to history in international law, few legal scholars have interrogated the tradition of Expositions Universelles, let alone reflected on their importance for the formation of imperial legal projects in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In this paper, I attempt to engage Science and Technology Studies with International Legal History, analyzing these World Fairs as prime spaces for the co-production of socio-technical imaginaries of global governance. Historically, it is hardly a coincidence that both international law and comparative law become professionalized in their modern form in the late nineteenth century, at the height of Western imperialism. This era was also the period of World Fairs […which] displayed diversity and difference in an objectified, inert form for the visual enjoyment of Western viewers, and they did so by bringing the world to the West. Our definition pulls together the normativity of imagination with the materiality of networks: sociotechnical imaginaries thus are collectively held and performed visions of desirable futures (or of resistance against the undesirable) and they are also animated by shared understandings of forms of social life and social order attainable through, and supportive of, advances in science and technology.

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