Agora 9: International Law and the Human Sciences: Anthropology and Sociology

The last decade has seen anthropologists and sociologists turn their attention to the study of international law and international institutions, mostly in the field of human rights, but increasingly in the areas of international criminal law, international humanitarian law and international investment law. The results have been varied, but are sometimes startling and illuminating. Turning international law and international lawyers into objects of sociological and anthropological analysis promises a new lens through which to address some perennial questions about international law: how do global legal norms develop legitimacy? How do they travel between national and international realms? How do international legal institutions socialize global actors and generate structures of social action at the international level? How does the normativity generated by international legal norms in human rights and international criminal law interact with national and local contexts? What forms of social power does it generate, and what kinds of power and knowledge does it marginalize? These are the questions that anthropological and sociological studies of international law can help address. They can also help to better understand the multiple ways in which international law is being transformed in this epoch of ‘Global Law’, a development that systematically challenges many of the key distinctions and categories upon which our concept of international law and its identity are premised.
This agora will bring together anthropologists and sociologists whose work centres on the study of international law and international institutions and place them in discussion with international lawyers.


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