A Latent Encounter with the Court: How Australia and Japan Settled a Dispute over the Regulation of Pearl Fisheries

Date & time
1–2pm Wednesday 1 September 2021

Online via Zoom

Dr Emma Nyhan
ANU Law Marketing
ANU College of Law Research Seminar

Part of the ANU College of Law Research Seminar Series 2021 series

How Australia and Japan Settled a Dispute over Pearl Fisheries

National encounters with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) are not limited to actual proceedings and judgments. Instead, the prospect of bringing a case to the Court is apparent in a wide range of inter-state disputes and situations. Although the influence of the Court is difficult to substantiate without actual cases, this paper seeks to uncover evidence of the Court’s role in an historic dispute. It examines a dispute between Japan and Australia over pearl fishing during the 1950s. Using records held in the National Archives of Australia, it traces the positions of the parties at different stages and the circumstances that led to the final resolution of the dispute. While proposed proceedings were delayed and finally abandoned, and there is no court record, it is still possible to discern from the parties’ position a dependence upon — and latent encounter with — the Court. This study’s findings provide a greater understanding about the role of the ICJ in a broader range of international disputes than is generally available, while also demonstrating the value of historical and socio-legal approaches to international law.

This talk is based on a forthcoming publication: Emma Nyhan, ‘A Latent Encounter with the Court: How Australia and Japan Settled a Pearl Fisheries Dispute’ in Hilary Charlesworth and Margaret Young (eds) ‘National Encounters with the International Court of Justice’ (2021) 21(3) Melbourne Journal of International Law.


  • Dr Emma Nyhan »

    Dr Emma Nyhan is a research fellow on the ARC-funded project ‘The Potential and Limits of International Adjudication: The International Court of Justice and Australia’ led by Professor Hilary Charlesworth and Associate Professor Margaret Young. Emma assists with research on legal issues in topic areas such as the role of international adjudication, the background to Australian litigation before the ICJ, and the impact of the cases in which Australia has been involved. She also assists with the administration of the project. She is currently a visitor at ANU School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet).

    Emma recently received a PhD from the European University Institute, Italy. Her doctoral dissertation, ‘Indigeneity, Law and Terrain: The Bedouin Citizens of Israel’, explored the ways in which the international concept of indigenous peoples came to be applied to the Bedouin in Israel. Her research pursues a socio-legal agenda and employs legal, historical and anthropological methodologies. Her doctoral studies were supported by awards from the Socio-Legal Studies Association and the Council for British Research in the Levant.

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