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Research projects


Current and recently completed international collaborative research projects include:



Current research projects



> Illuminating the Backstage of Transnational Legal Practice 

coordinators: Lianne Boer and Sofia Stolk


Traveling by airplane to an academic conference; interning with an NGO as an aspiring international lawyer; walking down the Rue de la Loi in Brussels in preparation for a meeting with EU officials. These are only a few examples of the plethora of activities that constitute the daily lives of those involved in the field of transnational law. While at first sight this field is made up of institutions, treaties, courtroom cases and bulky textbooks, the larger part of the work done remains invisible to the casual spectator. Legal scholars go to places, meet people, use social media, gather to draft edited volumes. Although these activities are commonplace, to date they have largely remained outside of the purview of scholarly analysis. This book seeks to fill that gap by peeking behind the scenes of transnational law; by asking how we know what we know within this field, and how it comes to look the way it does. It turns the spotlight towards practices, habits, and routines: that which is familiar to those operating within the discipline, but in and of itself never subjected to academic scrutiny.


Contributors: Jillian Dobson, Geoff Gordon, John Haskell, Marieke de Hoon, Sarah-Jane Koulen, Jessica Lawrence, Kjersti Löhne, Amin Parsa, Christine Schwöbel-Patel, Renske Vos, Wouter Werner.


Authors' workshops were organized on in June 2016 at VU Amsterdam, in February 2017 at the ISA in Baltimore and in June 2017 at EWIS Cardiff.



> Legal Sightseeing 

coordinators: Sofia Stolk and Renske Vos


The phenomenon ‘international legal sightseeing’ denotes what we call the eventisation of international law. We have become interested in how international law presents itself to ‘the public’, and in turn in what that public shows up for. International legal sightseeing typically encompasses situations in which groups of tourists go on a tour of the International Court of Justice and then afterwards eat an ice cream. We are struck by the participation of international courts and institutions in cultural activities and specifically in the presentation of international law’s institutional buildings as tourist attractions in their cities of residence. And we want to understand how international legal sightseeing fits with a managerial turn observed in law where justice becomes a product, citizens become consumers, and demands of transparency, accessibility and openness are translated into ‘logos, slogans, tags and mission and vision statements’. International legal sightseeing as a distinctive phenomenon arises out of an exchange between audience and institution. We inquire into three components of this exchange: the spectacular, the everyday and the encounter.





Recent research projects


Changing Practices of International Law

coordinators: Tanja Aalberts and Thomas Gammeltoft-Hansen Changing Practices cover


With more than 158,000 treaties and some 125 judicial organisations, international law has become an inescapable factor in world politics since the Second World War. In recent years, however, international law has also been increasingly challenged as states are voicing concerns that it is producing unintended effects and accuse international courts of judicial activism. This book provides an important corrective to existing theories of international law by focusing on how states respond to increased legalisation and rely on legal expertise to manoeuvre within and against international law. Through a number of case studies, covering a wide range of topical issues such as surveillance, environmental regulation, migration and foreign investments, the book argues that the expansion and increased institutionalisation of international law itself have created the structural premise for this type of politics of international law. More international law paradoxically increases states' political room of manoeuvre in world society.



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.


The volume was published by Cambridge University Press, 2018. 



> 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 is 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  




The Law of International Lawyers: Reading Martti Koskenniemi

coordinators: Alexis Galan, Marieke de Hoon, Wouter Werner
in cooperation with COST Action IS1003 Law of International Lawyers Cover


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 was published by Cambridge University Press (2017).




> 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.






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