Memory Beyond Borders? Cosmopolitanism and the International Criminal Court

Open Access
Biedendorf, Jennifer
Graduate Program:
Communication Arts and Sciences
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
May 01, 2009
Committee Members:
  • Stephen Howard Browne, Dissertation Advisor
  • Stephen Howard Browne, Committee Chair
  • Thomas Walter Benson, Committee Member
  • James Hogan, Committee Member
  • John Philip Christman, Committee Member
  • Janet Wynne Lyon, Committee Member
  • rhetoric
  • memory
  • transnationalism
  • cosmopolitanism
  • International Criminal Court
  • human rights
  • nation-state
  • conservative
  • women’s rights
  • U.S. foreign policy
  • Darfur
  • genocide
The study examines how idioms of human rights and global institutions that enforce human rights function as sites of national and transnational memory formation. Of central concern is how a transnational memory of human rights gets articulated in discourses about international law, international juridical institutions, and humanitarianism. The International Criminal Court—as an international legal institution that emerged out of the international human rights system as a permanent juridical body designed to bring to justice perpetrators of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide—figures as a key site for rhetorical inquiry into the study of transnational memory discourses. A central concern of this project is to examine how transnational memory discourses—specifically transnational memory discourses of human rights—are employed to rhetorically produce or challenge the constitution of trans/national subjectivities and communities. Drawing on four sites where advocates are waging rhetorical battles over the meaning, reach, and application of the International Criminal Court, the study examines not only the emergence or existence, but also the resistance to transnational memory discourses at various levels. Specifically, this study helps us better understand the kinds of political subjectivities and rhetorical communities produced by discourses about the signing / unsigning of the International Criminal Court’s treaty (chapter two), advocacy promoting ratification of the treaty (chapter three), negotiations over the Court’s design with regards to the inclusion of a gender perspective in the treaty (chapter four), and the application and invocation of the Court’s principles in contemporary advocacy campaigns for an intervention in Darfur, Sudan (chapter five). While all four discourses composing this manuscript draw on transnational memory discourses and discourses that constitute transnational communities, the focus of this project is on the residual challenges that the discursive framework of the nation-state poses to transnational memory. As such, Memory Beyond Borders? provides insight into the rhetoric of advocacy campaigns seeking to produce and foster cosmopolitan attitudes and into those discourses attempting to resist it. Consequently, I contend that, while these discourses aid in constituting transnational subjectivities, they also serve as important sites for the articulation of nationalist discourses. That is, discourses that seem to be most explicitly directed toward transnationalism are also discourses that are heavily steeped in nationalist language and reproduce rhetorics of the nation-state.