This talk will discuss elements of a research project that explores the evolution of the law of the sea over the course of the 20th century. It will focus on the emergence of the seabed as an area of political, economic and technological interest, and trace its subjection to national and international regimes. Calling attention to the legally constructed imaginary of the seabed as a space distinct from the above water, the talk will re-examine views of both the ocean and the law, which are commonly held, and presented as natural and therefore necessary. Suggesting instead a greater focus on the contingencies and false contingencies informing the development of the law, the talk will join a small but growing literature on the unnatural history of the sea. 

About the Speaker:

Surabhi Ranganathan is a University Lecturer in Law and a Fellow of King's College at the University of Cambridge.

She is also a fellow of the Lauterpacht Centre and the author of Strategically Created Treaty Conflicts and the Politics of International Law (CUP 2014). With an interest in the history of international law, natural resources and distribution, her current work focuses on the law of the sea and global commons.


The PIL Discussion Group hosts a weekly speaker event and light lunch and is a key focal point for PIL@Oxford. Topics involve contemporary and challenging issues in international law. Speakers include distinguished international law practitioners, academics, and legal advisers from around the world.

The group typically meets each Thursday during Oxford terms in The Old Library, All Souls College, with lunch commencing at 12:30. The speaker will commence at 12:45 and speak for about forty minutes, allowing about twenty five minutes for questions and discussion. The meeting should conclude before 2:00. Practitioners, academics and students from within and outside the University of Oxford are all welcome. No RSVP is necessary. Join the PIL Email List to receive information about the PIL Discussion Group meetings, as well as other PIL@Oxford news.

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Convenors of the Oxford Public International Law Discussion Group are Sachintha Dias Mudalige and Eirini Fasia.

The discussion group's meetings are part of the programme of the British Branch of the International Law Association and are supported by the Law Faculty and Oxford University Press.