Internationale Konferenz
12.06.2024 – 14.06.2024

The Rescuing Sovereign at Sea: Historical Perspectives on Maritime Law, Morals, and Politics

Ort: Leibniz-Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung, Eberhard-Lämmert-Saal, Eingang Meierottostr. 8, 10719 Berlin
Organisiert von Lukas Schemper, Henning Trüper

The conference discusses the intricate connections of maritime rescue, as an instance of humanitarian morality, with the symbolism and exercise of sovereignty. These connections are of a certain period. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, notions of bringing relief to distant suffering strangers became a key to the understanding of collective, societal agency. The sovereign state was increasingly influenced by—and was also expected to appropriate— this type of agency. The interaction of state and society in organized maritime lifesaving can be traced in the history of moral culture as well as in that of law. Lifesaving—both in the humane society format of saving people from drowning and in the lifeboat society format of volunteerism and increasingly technological solutions—serves as a privileged site of this interaction. Yet, the resulting arrangements of legal and moral orders are unstable. The present-day situation demonstrates how lifesaving is becoming politically contentious in novel ways.

Owing to the divergence of the legal traditions informing it, the interplay of societal and state-led forms of rescue has a complicated history that requires a long view and a global perspective, as other systems of laws, rules, and practices need to be considered. When exploring these complexities, it becomes clear that the understanding of rescue is inseparable from adjacent issues such as salvage or the territoriality of the sea, or, in more recent times, of the sea itself becoming an object of moral and legal human agency. The conference thus seeks to facilitate a discussion on the intersections between the diverse legal histories of sovereignty and the evolution of moral norms, particularly in the context of maritime humanitarianism and maritime law.


Fig. above:  The floating of the lifeboat, Riva. Photograph by Abdullah Frères, Constantinople [between 1880 and 1893]. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Abdul Hamid II Collection, [reproduction number, LC-USZ62-82127].


Wednesday, 12 June 2024

1.30 pm
Henning Trüper (ZfL), Lukas Schemper (ZfL): Welcome, Opening statements

Chair: Lukas Schemper (ZfL)

  • 2.00 pm
    Henning Trüper (ZfL): A Twofold Rupture: Moral and Legal Regimes of Saving Lives from Shipwreck since 1800
  • 3.00 pm
    Maria Fusaro (University of Exeter): The Return of Equity? The Long Life and many Incarnations of the Principle of General Average

Chair: Jonathan Stafford (ZfL)

  • 4.30 pm
    Ronald C. Po (London School of Economics/International Institute for Asian Studies, Leiden University): Salvaging Lives: Principles and Practices of Maritime Rescue in Early Modern China
  • 5.30 pm – via Zoom
    Kalyani Ramnath (University of Georgia): Adrift in the Indian Ocean


Thursday, 13 June 2024

Chair: Nebiha Guiga (ZfL)

  • 9.30 am
    Guillaume Calafat (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne/Institut Universitaire de France): Cross-Religious Shipwrecks and “Mutual Duties of Humanity” in Southern Europe and North Africa (1680–1730)
  • 10.45 am
    Ellen Krefting (University of Oslo): Sovereign Sensibilities: Old Legalities, New Moralities and Shipwrecks in Eighteenth-century France
  • 11.45 am – via Zoom
    Christopher Jacob Ries (Strandingsmuseum St. George): 19th Century Commercial Diving on the Danish ‘Iron Coast’

Chair: Alexandra Heimes (ZfL)

  • 2.00 pm
    Irial Glynn (University College Dublin): Mare Liberum or a Moat to Keep out the Unwanted? State Responses to Boat Refugees on the High Seas since the 1940s
  • 3.00 pm
    Tanja Aalberts (University of Amsterdam): Uneven Geographies at Sea
  • 4.30 pm
    Christian Pogies (Max Planck Institute for Legal History and Legal Theory, Frankfurt a.M.): Navigating Change. Humanity at Sea and the Glocal Practices of International Law


Friday, 14 June 2024

Chair: Ellen Krefting (University of Oslo)

  • 10.00 am
    Stephanie Jones (University of Southampton): Pirates for and against humanitarianism
  • 11.15 am
    Gard Paulsen (University of Oslo): ‘Bound to proceed to the assistance of the persons in distress’: Sovereign Power, Private Authority and International Law in the Regulation of the Safety of Life at Sea

Chair: Henning Trüper (ZfL)

  • 1.30 pm
    Nebiha Guiga (ZfL): Sovereignty, Citizenship, and Empire: an Analysis of the Early Donors of the Société Centrale de Sauvetage des Naufragés
  • 2.30 pm
    Lukas Schemper (ZfL): Maritime Safety, Sovereignty, and the International Order in the Nineteenth Century

4.00 pm
Concluding discussion