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Research projects

Current international collaborative research projects include:



> The Power of Legality

coordinators: Nikolas Rajkovic, Tanja Aalberts and Thomas Gammeltoft-Hansen
in cooperation with COST Action IS1003


This project analyses the simultaneous disruption of political and legal categories that used to form the basis of international order, in connection to an increasingly intimate relationship between law and politics, and between International Law and International Relations as disciplines. It does so by, first, examining the notion of 'legality' as a central, yet constantly contested concept in international society. By analysing practices of legality in a globalizing world, this project seeks to move beyond traditional assumptions of the epistemological separation of the political and legal domain to an understanding of how these domains are (re)produced in struggles over the boundaries of international law. Secondly, the project takes these reflections on changing boundaries to question formal conventions of knowledge production and disciplinarity which have been guiding "international" thought, research and teaching.


PoL coverIn the context of this project a workshop has been organized (together with the Global Governance Programme, EUI) at the European University Institute, Florence in May 2013. In addition several panels were organized at the CEEISA conference in Krakow (September 2012) and at the COST Action conference 'Globalization and the Boundaries of Legality', in Weimar (11-13 December 2013).


The volume will by published by Cambridge University Press (Spring 2016)


Table of Contents


contributors: Martti Koskenniemi, Nikolas Rajkovic, Tanja Aalberts, Thomas Gammeltoft-Hansen, Friedrich Kratochwil, Anna Leander, Wouter Werner, Filipe dos Reis, Oliver Kessler, Ciaran Burke, Vidya Kumar, Vassilis Tzevelekos, Bas Schotel, Cathy Powell, Jonathan Strug, Michael Buenger, Surabhi Ranganathan, Maj Grasten, Jeffrey Dunoff  




Koskenniemi and his Critics

coordinators: Alexis Galan, Marieke de Hoon, Wouter Werner
in cooperation with COST Action IS1003


The purpose of this project is to critically discuss Martti Koskenniemi's writings in order to reflect where international law and international relations are going. While the starting point is engaging with Koskenniemi's writings, the focus is to draw on the main themes he has developed throughout his career so as to reflect about the status of international law and politics in today's world. Hence, the project concerns a multifaceted analysis of international law as a practice, as a discipline, as politics, as law, and so forth. It addresses four elements in particular: (1) The Culture of Formalism; (2) The Politics of International Law; (3) Indeterminacy; (4) Turn to Historiography/Interdisciplinarity.


participants: Armin von Bogdandy (Max Planck), Jutta Brunnée (Toronto), Allen Buchanan (Duke), Sergio Dellavalle (Max Planck), David Dyzenhaus (Toronto), Martti Koskenniemi (Helsinki), Friedrich Kratochwil (CEU), Andrew Lang (LSE), Susan Marks (LSE), Frederic Megret (McGill), Gregor Noll (Lund), Liliane Obregon (Andes/Helsinki), Anne Orford (Melbourne), Eric Posner (Chicago), Nicholas Rajkovic (Kent), Sahib Singh (Cambridge), Stephen J. Toope (British Columbia), Nigel White (Nottingham)


In the context of this project a research workshop was organized in Amsterdam, 10-12 April 2014. The edited volume will be published by Cambridge University Press in 2016.




> Changing Practices of International Law

coordinators: Tanja Aalberts and Thomas Gammeltoft-Hansen


This project analyzes how the normative thickening of governance and legalization of world politics paradoxically increases the room for political manoeuvre within international law. Rather than the sceptical view of the irrelevance of international law, it examines the politics of international law in its dual meaning (both the politics of international law - i.e. the productive power of international law in terms of what politics can be and do; and the politics of international law - i.e. the influence of politics on IL as a practice). The project seeks to analyze this paradox by investigating the variety of legal strategies that states apply to barter off their sovereign responsibilities within governance structures.


In the context of this project a research workshop 'Changing Practices of International Law' was held Reykjavik, 27-29 August 2014, organized in cooperation with COST Action IS1003 and Bifrost University, Iceland.



> Punishment in International Law and Politics

coordinators: Wolfgang Wagner and Wouter Werner


The recognition of a right to punish states, be it for the protection of subjective rights, securing the freedom of mankind’s territories or safeguarding community values, has a long history in international law. With the rise of collective security schemes in the 20th century, however, the right of punishment among nations has gradually lost its legitimacy. Since World War II armed reprisals were broadly deemed illegal. And yet, the idea of punishment lingered on, albeit often implicit, repressed and ambiguous. Although couched in terms of self-defense, military actions against Libya in 1986 or Sudan in 1998 seem difficult to fully understand without recourse to notions of punishment. When liberal democracies discussed the desirability of military action against the Syrian government in the summer of 2013, such considerations were debated quite frankly.


In this research project we are interested in the broader implications of a re-emergence of punitivity in international law and politics. Drawing on theories in sociology and criminology, we examine to what extent recent uses of military force were motivated by a penological rationale. We further analyse the implications of punitive military actions for the international community. Inspired by Émile Durkheim’s notion that punishment is not designed to change the behavior of the perpetrator but to re-affirm community values, we explore the politics of international punishment among as well as within states.



> Investigating International Law Backstage

coordinators: Lianne Boer and Sofia Stolk


What happens before the curtain rises – or after it falls – on the stage of international legal practices. Articles are published, trials conducted, treaties are written – but what happens backstage? The examples are too numerous to list here, but include the ‘opening day’ of an international criminal trial, a conversation between a PhD candidate and their supervisor, or the keynote speech by a leading figure in the field. The ‘informal’ or ‘taken for granted’ character of these kinds of activities ensures that they’re ignored in any analysis of the field within which we operate, yet they are crucial to what we do. Take them away and very little – if anything – remains of this machinery we are all part of. Think of your attendance at a conference, and the people you talk to, the ideas originating or further developed there: this all happens backstage, but without it, this profession doesn’t happen – or at least, it would look very different from what it is now. Basically, the construction and maintenance of particular networks, on whatever site it takes place, is all part of this machinery. As a contributor, we would like to invite you to compose a chapter on whichever ‘backstage phenomenon’ you can think of: the examples just listed are only that, and given the work you’ve been doing so far we figured you could come up with your own. The background of all this is, of course, the idea of ‘the transnational’: what happens if we extend this line of thought as broadly as we would like? 


 An authors' workshop will be organized on 30 June - 1 July 2016, at VU university, Amsterdam



For additional research projects, please consult the webpages under the people tab