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Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies 10.2 (2003) 157-199

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Changing Identities and Changing Law:
Possibilities for a Global Legal Culture

Russell Menyhart*


The 2002 World Cup provided a symbolic moment in the evolving relationship of identity and the nation-state. The source was the Polish squad, one of the teams hoping to create a stir in that summer of fine football. Still emerging from decades of Soviet control, the Polish people were full of pride for their team, especially for their star forward Emmanuel Olisadebe. Olisadebe, a 24-year-old born in Nigeria, was discovered in Lagos by a Polish scout and began playing for a cellar-dwelling Warsaw club team in 1997. In just three years he led the club to an unprecedented joint League and Cup championship, and Zbigniew Boniek, a former Polish star, led a campaign for Olisadebe to be granted citizenship. With the assistance of a presidential decree, Olisadebe, still barely able to speak Polish, became a Polish citizen just before the deadline for World Cup qualifying matches. He scored seven goals, led Poland to the final round of play in South Korea and Japan, and was quickly proclaimed a new Polish hero. 1

With a nudge and a wink, a Nigerian became one of the most recognizable Poles. The populace of one of Europe's most homogeneous nations suddenly embraced an African-Pole. Its response revealed that, even in a society still discovering its own post-Cold War independence and identity, citizenship and nation may be just terms of convenience. They mean little more than a team to cheer for; even if some Polish children cheered for England or Germany in the World Cup, no one reprimanded them. The era during which the nation-state not only claimed to be unchallengeable but also was assumed to be sacrosanct has [End Page 157] come to an end. The nation—as a source of identity—may be reduced to the status of a sports uniform. 2

The theory of globalization this Note builds upon is the model of denationalization. 3 In this model, globalization is a radical rearrangement of communities that results in a need to relocate our sources of laws and legal norms. Most denationalization analysis focuses on the interplay between communities and societies on the regional or global scale and questions the possibility of denationalization. This Note takes a different tack, accepting for the sake of sparking further discussion that a fully or partially denationalized world is inevitable, 4 and examining what effect the denationalization of identity may have on the relationship between the individual and the law. Examining current legal structures through new lenses can help us anticipate how they might change. From whence do the rules we feel compelled to follow come? What might individuals who do not recognize political borders consider binding law? I argue that a nation state-based legal system is ill suited to a world of multiple identities. Legal scholars need to consider new theories of the law and the legal institutions that result. This Note proposes a global legal culture as an alternative legal philosophy and structure, one that can help the legal profession envision how to alter existing legal institutions and build new ones. The changes considered are gradual, even generational, and are not meant to replace existing structures entirely. [End Page 158] But they have profound implications for nation-states, the legal profession, and, most importantly, the man on the street in Delhi or Kansas City.

Part I of this Note discusses changing concepts of citizenship and identity, focusing on their psychological implications. There has been an explosion of excellent literature exploring the implications of globalization for citizenship and identity in the last ten years. 5 This Note supports that work by providing three examples of how psychological dimensions of individual identity are changing, and how that change is affecting our world. The deeper project, which begins in Part II, suggests that identity is becoming denationalized to such an extent that it will fundamentally change the role of...


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