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Fellow’s Talk: Shaine Scarminach

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A talk by UCHI Dissertation Research Fellow Shaine Scarminach with a response by Sara Silverstein.

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Refusal and Resignation: The Reagan Administration and the Law of the Sea Convention

“Refusal and Resignation: The Reagan Administration and the Law of the Sea Convention” explores President Ronald Reagan’s decision not to sign the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Despite nine years of painstaking negotiations, the Reagan administration rejected the final agreement on the grounds that it ran counter to U.S. interests. I argue that this abrupt shift resulted less from disagreements over specific provisions and more from the principles behind the treaty. In rejecting an agreement that championed multilateral negotiations, supranational institutions, and economic redistribution, the Reagan administration emphasized the need for national sovereignty, the free market, and bilateral relations to govern the world’s oceans. The talk will discuss the Reagan administration’s failed attempt to negotiate last minute changes to the treaty, and the policy decisions that led the United States to remain outside of an agreement that governs more than two-thirds of the Earth’s surface.

Shaine Scarminach is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History at the University of Connecticut. He studies the history of the United States in the world, with an emphasis on U.S. empire, world capitalism, and the global environment. His dissertation, “Lost at Sea: The United States and the Struggle to Govern the World’s Oceans,” explores the U.S. role in developing the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. His research has been supported by the Tinker Foundation, the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation, and the Rockefeller Archive Center.

Sara Silverstein is a jointly appointed Assistant Professor of History and Human Rights. Her work focuses on the history of internationalism, modern Europe, social rights, global health, development, refugees and migrants, and statelessness. She received her Ph.D. in History from Yale University in 2016, her M.Phil. in Modern European History from the University of Oxford in 2009, and her A.B. in Literature from Dartmouth College in 2007. Before coming to UConn, she was a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Yale Jackson Institute for Global Affairs and has been a Fox Fellow at Sciences Po, Paris, a junior visiting fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, and a Franke Fellow at Yale. She is the 2017 winner of the World History Association Dissertation Prize.

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