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Priyasha Saksena

Priyasha Saksena

S.J.D. 2018

psaksena at


Jousting Over Jurisdiction: Sovereignty and International Law in Colonial South Asia, c. 1858-1950

My dissertation is a history of the international law doctrine of sovereignty in colonial South Asia. I place my project within the larger literature on the relationship between international law and empire, a large part of which argues that the doctrine of sovereignty was structured in a way to exclude the colonial world from international law. My focus is on the princely states of colonial South Asia, which were ruled by indigenous rulers and were not considered to be British territory, but remained subject to British influence. The princely states were not classified as colonies or protectorates; instead their legal status remained controversial throughout colonial rule. I examine both legal texts and jurisdictional disputes between the princely states and the British Government (gathered from archival material) to trace arguments made by a variety of players (international lawyers, politicians, colonial officials, princely state advisors, Indian nationalists) on the idea of sovereignty. I argue that in the process of “jousting over jurisdiction,” the concept of sovereignty was both the tool and the terrain of legal and political struggle between British and South Asian actors throughout colonial rule.

Fields of Research and Supervisors

  • International Law with Professor David Kennedy, Harvard Law School, Principal Faculty Supervisor
  • Legal and Social Theory with Professor Duncan Kennedy, Harvard Law School
  • International Economic Law with Professor Mark Wu, Harvard Law School
  • Colonial and Postcolonial Histories of South Asia with Professor Sugata Bose, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University

Additional Research Interests

  • Law and Empire
  • Public International Law
  • South Asian Legal History
  • Law and Development


  • Harvard Law School, S.J.D., 2018
  • Harvard Law School, LL.M., 2012-2013 (requirements fulfilled, degree waived)
  • National Law School of India University, India, B.A. LL.B., 2010

Academic Appointments and Fellowships

  • Harvard Law School, Byse Fellow, 2017-2018
  • Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University, Graduate Student Affiliate, 2017-2018
  • Harvard Law School, Graduate Program Fellow, LL.M. Writing Workshop, 2014-2017
  • Harvard Law School, Graduate Program Fellow, Legal Research, Writing, and Analysis I Teaching Assistant, Fall 2016
  • South Asia Institute, Harvard University, Graduate Student Associate, 2015-2016
  • Harvard Law School, Graduate Program Fellow, LL.M. Advisor, 2013-2014

Representative Publications

  • Priyasha Saksena, “Book Review: Lauren Benton and Lisa Ford, Rage for Order: The British Empire and the Origins of International Law, 1800-1850,” Social and Legal Studies (forthcoming, 2018)

Additional Information

Languages: English (fluent), Hindi (native), French (basic)

Last Updated: August 10, 2017