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Abstract

Since the end of the Cold War, the content, scope, and extent of extraterritorial human rights obligations has become a pressing concern for international lawyers. On one end of the debate, mainstream scholarship argues that jurisdiction is primarily territorial, identifying a limited range of situations in which jurisdiction (and responsibility) is triggered. On the other end, critical scholars suggest that Empire still haunts jurisdiction. By reconstructing the history of this doctrine, they show that the imperial reach has always been extra-territorial and that the intimate linkage between state, territory, and population is of a rather recent and tenuous origin. In both of these narratives, however, lies the assumption that jurisdiction operates as a secularized power. Even if empires/states were once religious, faith’s legacy remains confined to the past. In this article, conversely, I trace a critical genealogy of Christian authority as a jurisdictional structure, in which territoriality was never presumed. After all, one cannot forget that Catholicism and Universalism were forged in the same etymological crucible. By drawing from Foucault’s analysis of pastoral power, I argue that international law has deep roots in Christianity’s claims of governmentality upon "men and souls" instead of over defined territories.

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