When the margin IS the center, perspectives shift

Table of contents


  1. Introduction

The Path of this Book

  1. Remoteness Generally Reconsidered

Elements of Remoteness
Temporal Remoteness and the Problem of Periodization
International Law’s Struggle with Remoteness and Periodization
Two Current Problems: Globalization and the Anthropocene
Geographic Remoteness
Territorializing Remoteness
Lines and Maps
Doctrinal RemotenessDemarginalizing the DesertConclusion

  1. Nomos

Carl Schmitt and Nomos
The Dynamics of Biogeography
Spanish Incursions into the Atacama

  1.  Guano and Nitrates

The War of the Pacific

  1. Water

The Source of the Riparian Dispute
A Deep History of Tension
Psychological Effects of the War of the Pacific and Goffmanian Metaphor
The Importance of Metaphors and International Law
Ceremonial Profanations and Legal Vandalism
The Evolution of Transboundary Fresh Water Law
Evolution of the International Law Defining Watercourse
The Watercourse Convention
A Clash of Interests: Sovereignty versus Watercourse Integrity
The Doctrine of International Servitude
The Absolute View: The Harmon Doctrine
The Restrictive Theory of Prior Rights
Rise of Equitable Use and Mutual Accord: A Community of Interests?

  1. Lithium

Competing Perspectives
Chile’s Economic Transition and ‘Lost Decade’
The Chicago Boys
Bolivia and Dependency Theory: The Antipode
Bolivia’s Alternative View of Extractivism
Lingering Effects of Bolivia’s Postcolonial Encounter
Bolivia’s Fitful Relation to Neoliberalism
Argentina and Neoliberalism

  1. The Spatial Turn, Extractivism, and Remoteness

Name Index


Much of our understanding of the world is framed from the perspective of a dominant power center, or from standard readings of historical events. The architecture of international information distribution, academic centers, and the lingua franca of international scholarly discourse also shape these stories. Remoteness Reconsidered employs the idea of remoteness as an analytical tool for viewing international law's encounter with the Americas from the unusual, peripheral perspective of the Atacama Desert. The Atacama is one of the most remote places on Earth, although that less-than-accurate perspective comes from standard historical accounts of the region, accounts that originate from the “center.” Changing the usual frame of reference leads to a reconsideration of the idea of remoteness and of the subsequent marginalization of historical narratives that influence hemispheric international relations in important ways today. Lessons about international law's encounters with neoliberalism, indigenous and human rights, and the management and extraction of mineral resources take on new significance by following a spatial turn toward the idea of remoteness as applied to the Atacama Desert.

Christopher R. Rossi is Associate Professor of Political Science at UiT, The Arctic University of Norway, and an Associate Member of the Aurora Center at the Norwegian Center for the Law of the Sea.

“A remarkably insightful interdisciplinary study interpreting how a remote region like the Atacama Desert becomes part of the global economy, and showcasing the role that International Law plays—and will continue to play—in that process.”
—Richard Francaviglia, author of Imagining the Atacama Desert: A Five-Hundred-Year Journey of Discovery (2018) and The Enchantress of Atacama (2019)

- Richard Francaviglia

Remoteness Reconsidered is an eye-opening contribution to the spatial history of international law. Christopher Rossi has shown how the importance of the Atacama Desert has been neglected from colonial cartography to contemporary neoliberal policies, revealing why dominant views of remoteness merit to be revised by international lawyers and IR scholars.”
—Juan Pablo Scarfi, University of San Andres, author of The Hidden History of International Law in the Americas: Empire and Legal Networks (2017)

- Juan Pablo Scarfi

“A spatial, critical-geographic perspective on international law and its operation…Using the trope of ‘remoteness,’ Rossi offers both an original conceptual interrogation as well as a critical topography of one particular place—the Atacama Desert.”
—Petra Gümplová, Universität Erfurt

- Petra Gümplová, Universität Erfurt

 “Rossi integrates multiple disciplines in the examination of [remoteness's] centrality in transboundary disputes and conflicts, using the Atacama as the trope.”
—Rhett Larson, Arizona State University

- Rhett Larson