Special Content

International Law as Behavior Symposium: Toward an Anthropology of International Law

by Galit A. Sarfaty

[Galit A. Sarfaty is the Canada Research Chair in Global Economic Governance and Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Law, University of British Columbia]

With the growing importance of global legal institutions, new forms of global law, and transnational social movements around legal issues, anthropologists are studying the multiplicity of sites where international law operates. Scholars have examined the practices of international courts and tribunals and their conceptions of justice in relation to those of local communities. They have studied the global impact of law-oriented nongovernmental organizations on postcolonial consciousness. They have also analyzed the production of international treaties by transnational elites and their localization and translation on the ground. Given the critical need to uncover how international law is produced and operates in practice, legal scholars can gain insights from anthropological literature and adopt ethnographic tools in their own analysis. As I will outline below, anthropology offers unique insights in understanding international law behavior.

What is an Anthropological Approach to International Law

Anthropological theory and methods enables the study of how international law operates in practice, from how it is produced on a global scale to its localization on the micro-level. Through ethnographic research, anthropologists analyze individual actions, systems of meaning, power dynamics, and the political and economic contexts that shape the operation of international law. They recognize disjunctures between how laws are written and how they are implemented on the ground, as well as further variations in how they affect different communities. In the context of Harold Koh’s transnational legal process theory of norm compliance, an anthropological approach sheds light on the norm emergence and internalization phases by which international norms penetrate domestic legal systems on the local level.

Ethnographic research involves case-oriented study, including long-term fieldwork and in-depth interviews. In the context of studying international law, fieldwork is frequently multi-sited to allow researchers to analyze such phenomena as the transnational circulation of global norms and local settings where multiple legal orders intersect—or what scholars call “global legal pluralism.” By tracking the flow of laws, institutions, people, and ideas across locales and jurisdictions, multi-sited “deterritorialized” ethnography is a useful tool in the study of international law.

Anthropological research aims at answering a question rather than testing a hypothesis. Unlike other methods, it is not based on prior assumptions or models. Rather, hypotheses and theories emerge from the data, and are constantly evaluated and adjusted as the research progresses. Interviews are usually unstructured or semi-structured with open-ended questions developed in response to observations and ongoing analysis. The questions are designed to seek respondents’ interpretations of what is happening and allow them to describe problems, policy solutions, and their rationales in their own words.

What Anthropologists of International Law Study

While there are numerous areas of focus for anthropologists of international law, I will very briefly highlight a few important ones here: (i) the cultures of international organizations and international tribunals; (ii) the transnational circulation and localization of international legal norms; and (iii) the knowledge practices and technologies of governance in international law.

The Cultures of International Organizations and International Tribunals

(more…)

http://opiniojuris.org/2015/01/19/international-law-behavior-symposium-toward-anthropology-international-law/
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International Law as Behavior Symposium: An Introduction

by Harlan Cohen

[Harlan Cohen is an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Georgia School of Law]

This past November, the University of Georgia School of Law and the ASIL International Legal Theory Interest Group convened a book workshop on “International Law as Behavior,” at Tillar House, ASIL’s headquarters in Washington, DC. The workshop brought together scholars working in variety of different fields, including anthropology, behavioral law and economics, constructivist international relations theory, organizations theory, rational choice, social psychology, and sociology, to discuss how these approaches might best be applied to the study of international law, how these approaches can complement each other, the opportunities and challenges of working across these fields, and the development of a common language and tools to study how international actors actually behave. Participants included Anne van Aaken (University of St. Gallen), Elena Baylis (University of Pittsburgh School of Law), Tomer Broude (Hebrew University Faculty of Law), Adam Chilton (University of Chicago School of Law), Sungjoon Cho (IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law), Jean Galbraith (University of Pennsylvania Law School), Ron Levi (University of Toronto Global Affairs and Sociology), Tim Meyer (University of Georgia School of Law), Galit Sarfaty (University of British Columbia Faculty of Law), and Kathryn Sikkink (Harvard Kennedy School). A book based on presentations at the workshop that I will be editing will follow.

The workshop and book arise out of an intuition that there is more international legal scholars can learn from sophisticated work on legal behavior developing in other disciplines and more that scholars drawing on those disciplines can learn from each other. International law and legal scholars have long borrowed from a variety of disciplines to help understand the functioning of the international system. Important work on international law, including work of the New Haven and English Schools, has drawn on Law & Society, Anthropology, Constructivism, Linguistics, and Sociology. Drawing on international relations and economics, scholars have invoked principles of rational design to explain the shape of international agreements and international organizations and the choice between hard and soft law. Economic analysis has helped explain cooperation and compliance. Most recently, international law scholars have begun to draw insights from behavioral law and economics and psychology.

Instead of informing and enriching each other, however, these varied approaches have often developed in parallel and isolation, siloed off from the insights of the others. Drawing from distinct fields with their own languages and methods, scholars pursuing these approaches have often ended up talking past each other – if they spoke to each other at all. (There are obviously exceptions to these trends, including contributors to this project; readers of these posts know who you are.) The goal of this workshop and the edited volume to follow is to begin to bridge those gaps and foster the conversation between methods and approaches that might form the foundation for a study of international law as behavior. How do international actors actually behave and what drives their behavior? How and when is their rationality bounded by psychology? How do they operate as members of groups and recipients of culture? How do they write and follow organizational scripts? Dialogue between these approaches should only help to enrich all of them, suggesting new paths, blindspots, and even wrong-turns for each. Some of these methods will fit together well; others, whether because of initial assumptions or research styles and demands, may not. And, different approaches may have an advantage depending on the specific questions about international behavior being asked. But it is exactly these questions that we hope to explore.

Over the next few days, Galit Sarfaty, Jean Galbraith, Tim Meyer, Elena Baylis, Tomer Broude and I hope to give you a flavor of the presentations and conversations at the November workshop. Thank you to Opinio Juris for allowing us to showcase some of this project here. We look forward to hearing your thoughts and to kicking off Opinio Juris’ tenth year in style!

http://opiniojuris.org/2015/01/19/international-law-behavior-symposium-introduction/
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Weekly News Wrap: Monday, January 19, 2015

by Jessica Dorsey

Your weekly selection of international law and international relations headlines from around the world:

Africa

Middle East and Northern Africa

Asia

Europe

Americas

  • A delegation of US congressional Democrats began a three-day visit to Cuba to discuss expectations for the normalisation of relations between the United States and the island nation.

UN/World

http://opiniojuris.org/2015/01/19/weekly-news-wrap-monday-january-19-2015/
This entry was posted in Weekday News Wrap.

Weekend Roundup: January 17, 2015

by Jessica Dorsey

This week, we celebrated Opinio Juris’ 10th anniversary, with our permabloggers weighing in with their thoughts on the last decade of blogging. Julian kicked the discussion off with how the legal blogosphere has changed over the last ten years. Roger reflected on blogging and the marketplace of ideas. In Peter’s musings, he explored the evolution of international law as well as the role blogging has played and will play in the future. Duncan shared nine realizations that he has made over the last decade through blogging and teaching. Making international law no longer the invisible college but visible and accessible was at the heart of Peggy’s contribution.

Chris asked about the must-reads and key scholarly texts in international law over the last decade. Through tracing her own journey into international law, Deborah thanked Opinio Juris and the readers for the conversation. Kevin reflected on how blogging enhanced his career, and helped him to develop into the nicer, kinder blog version of himself he is today. Jens touched on the real-world impact blogging can and does have, while hoping for a continued discourse. Kristin capped the joviality off by wishing the blog a happy birthday and looking forward to the continued discussion.

Other contributions of note this week were two guest posts. The first from Rebecca Hamilton posed the question: When should the ICC call it quits? The second, by Oliver Windridge, was a great overview of the activities of the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights from 2014.

Duncan congratulated Dean Andrew Guzman on his new appointment at USC’s Gould School of Law and Kevin pondered the case of Roger Ver and whether renouncing US citizenship for “selfish economic reasons” makes you a bad person. And as usual, I wrapped up the week’s headlines and posted Events and Announcements.

Thanks for following us this week, and over the last decade. We’re very grateful to you readers for being part of the development of Opinio Juris and hope that the conversation continues far into the future.

http://opiniojuris.org/2015/01/17/weekend-roundup-january-17-2015/
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Weekly News Wrap: Monday, January 12, 2015

by Jessica Dorsey

Your weekly selection of international law and international relations headlines from around the world:

Africa

  • A girl perhaps no more than 10 years old detonated powerful explosives concealed under her veil at a crowded northern Nigeria market on Saturday, killing as many as 20 people and wounding many more. On Sunday, at least six people were killed after two suspected child suicide bombers blew themselves up in a market in northeast Nigeria, witnesses say, in the second attack involving young girls strapped with explosives.
  • The United Nations Security Council backed plans by Democratic Republic of the Congo and U.N. peacekeepers to begin a military campaign to “neutralize” a Rwandan rebel group in the country’s rugged eastern provinces.

Middle East and Northern Africa

  • The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court may be close to opening an initial investigation into last summer’s Gaza war.
  • Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told Venezuela’s president on Saturday he backed coordinated action between Tehran and Caracas to reverse a rapid fall in global oil prices which he described as a “political ploy hatched by common enemies”.
  • American-led forces launched 12 air strikes against Islamic State militants in Syria since Friday, all but one of them near the contested city of Kobani, the U.S. military said.
  • Reports have surfaced that a U.S.-led coalition airstrike killed at least 50 Syrian civilians late last month when it targeted a headquarters of Islamic State extremists in northern Syria, according to an eyewitness and a Syrian opposition human rights organization.

Asia

Europe

  • Two gunmen forced their way into and opened fire in the Paris headquarters of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing twelve, including staff and two police officers, and wounding eleven, four of them seriously. The gunmen escaped but a day later they were shot dead as they fled a warehouse where they had hostages north of Paris, firing at police. World leaders including Muslim and Jewish statesmen linked arms to lead more than a million French citizens through Paris in an unprecedented march to pay tribute to victims of Islamist militant attacks.
  • These attacks may fuel rising anti-immigration movements around Europe and inflame a “culture war” about the place of religion and ethnic identity in society. Over the weekend, a German newspaper in the northern port city of Hamburg that reprinted caricatures of Prophet Muhammad from the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo was the target of an arson attack, according to police and the offices of Le Soir, a Belgian newspaper that republished cartoons from the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, were evacuated on Sunday after receiving an anonymous bomb threat, its staff said. Hackers claiming to be with the group Anonymous say they have hacked a jihadist website in retaliation for the terror attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
  • Transsexuals, transvestites and others thought to have what Russia considers to be “sexual disorders” have been barred from driving in the country for “medical reasons” under new road safety regulations.

Americas

  • More than a decade after a series of shootings and bombings in the Jerusalem area, a trial is slated this week in New York to determine whether the Palestine Liberation Organization and Palestinian Authority should pay up to $1 billion to victims.
  • Egyptian-born imam Abu Hamza al-Masri has been sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty of terrorism charges last year.

UN/World

  • The United Nations is immune from a lawsuit seeking compensation for victims of a deadly cholera outbreak in Haiti, a US judge said in dismissing a case that government lawyers said could open international body to an onslaught of litigation.
  • Hundreds of civilians were massacred in two separate incidents in South Sudan last year in which victims were targeted for their ethnicity, nationality or political views, possibly amounting to war crimes, the United Nations said in a report on Friday.
http://opiniojuris.org/2015/01/12/weekly-news-wrap-monday-january-12-2015/
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Holiday Roundup: December 20, 2014 – January 9, 2015

by An Hertogen

This holiday season, we trust Santa was still as safe as back in 1961 and that nobody received a lump of coal. We found some time to post, so if you were too busy to visit our blog, here is what you missed.

Kevin posted about a virtual roundtable on David Bosco’s “Rough Justice” in which he participated over at H-Diplo, and linked to his new essay on the use and abuse of analogy in IHL. Deborah agreed with Cliff Sloan on the closing of Guantanamo. Catherine Harwood wrote about the UN HRC inquiry into human rights violations in North Korea and Larry Backer commented on the recent normalisation of US-Cuban relations.

Finally, I listed the events and announcements and Jessica wrapped up the international law news (1, 2).

Watch this space next week as we mark our tenth anniversary!

Many thanks to our guest contributors and have a nice weekend!

http://opiniojuris.org/2015/01/10/holiday-roundup-december-20-2014-january-9-2015/
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Weekly News Wrap: Monday, January 5, 2015

by Jessica Dorsey

Your weekly selection of international law and international relations headlines from around the world:

Africa

Middle East and Northern Africa

Asia

Europe

Americas

UN/World

http://opiniojuris.org/2015/01/05/weekly-news-wrap-monday-january-5-2015/
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Weekly News Wrap: Monday, December 22, 2014

by Jessica Dorsey

Your weekly selection of international law and international relations headlines from around the world:

Africa

Middle East and Northern Africa

Asia

Europe

Americas

UN/World

http://opiniojuris.org/2014/12/22/weekly-news-wrap-monday-december-22-2014/
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Weekend Roundup: December 13-19, 2014

by An Hertogen

This week on Opinio Juris, our regular bloggers touched on a variety of topics again with Kevin rejecting Ashley Deeks’ evidence that the international response to ISIS supports the “unwilling or unable” test under article 51 UN Charter and Kristen expanding the UN’s list of 13 things to know about UN sanctions to 16. Prompted by Christopher Kutz’ essay, Julian asked whether the norm against torture is indeed dying in the US.

In guest posts this week, Bede Sheppard discussed new guidelines to protect schools and universities from military use during armed conflict, and Rick Lines and Damon Barrett pointed to an interesting question of international law posed by the US’ four pillar approach to international drug control.

Finally, Kevin welcomed Points of Order to the blogosphere and, as every week, you could count on Jessica to wrap up the international news headlines and list the events and announcements.

Many thanks to our guest contributors and have a great weekend!

http://opiniojuris.org/2014/12/20/weekend-roundup-december-13-19-2014/
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Weekly News Wrap: Monday, December 15, 2014

by Jessica Dorsey

Your weekly selection of international law and international relations headlines from around the world:

Africa

Middle East and Northern Africa

  • Palestinian officials are to present a draft resolution to the UN Security Council seeking a two-year deadline for Israel to end its occupation, an official has said.
  • The UN Security Council has called for a “swift and transparent investigation” after a Palestinian minister died during a confrontation with Israeli soldiers.

Asia

Europe

Americas

Oceania

UN/World

http://opiniojuris.org/2014/12/15/weekly-news-wrap-monday-december-15-2014/
This entry was posted in Weekday News Wrap.

Weekend Roundup: December 6-12, 2014

by Jessica Dorsey

Looking back at the week that was, Opinio Juris bloggers covered a number of news-related issues. Several provided commentary on the release of the US Senate’s Torture Report. Prior to its release, Kevin expressed disbelief at a post by ACLU Director Anthony Romero urging blanket amnesty for those responsible for torture, and as soon as it became available, Jens announced the report’s availability and his first thoughts here, before discussing what we really fight about when we talk about torture here.

Deborah examined the question of prosecution in response to allegations in the report, and Roger posted on the report as a truth and reconciliation commission, akin to his research on the transitional justice process post-apartheid in South Africa. Finally, Julian weighed in analyzing a recent trend that the US public does not necessarily agree with international law’s absolute ban on torture.

In other news, after the ICC dropped the case against Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta, Julian posed the provocative question whether this might spell the end for the ICC. Additionally, Kevin flagged the OTP’s decision to suspend the investigation into alleged crimes in Darfur, troubled by the seemingly politically laden relationship between the Court and the UN Security Council.

Julian also called attention to China’s “position paper” released ahead of its December 15th filing deadline in the situation between China and the Philippines before the UNCLOS arbitral tribunal. He also pointed to his more in-depth analysis of why the Philippines arbitration is doomed to fail (spoiler alert: it’s due to a mistake by the Philippines in employing a “lawfare strategy” forcing China before the arbitral tribunal), notwithstanding Vietnam’s support of the Philippines’ position. Finally in sea-worthy news, Julian pointed to the newest (sci-fi) development for the US Navy in the Persian Gulf: the planned deployment of laser cannons.

Rounding out the contributions from our regular bloggers, Duncan paid homage to his mentor, the late Professor Alfred P. Rubin, referring to him as the best professor he has ever had.

We posted Eric Sigmund’s guest contribution, a response to Kevin’s previous questioning of why US courts don’t understand IHL, remarking that the courts’ misunderstanding of IHL is deeper than you’d think.

Finally, I wrapped up the week’s news and listed events and announcements.

Thanks go out to our guest contributor and have a nice weekend!

http://opiniojuris.org/2014/12/13/weekend-roundup-december-6-12-2014/
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Weekly News Wrap: Monday, December 8, 2014

by Jessica Dorsey

Your weekly selection of international law and international relations headlines from around the world:

Africa

  • The International Criminal Court has withdrawn charges of crimes against humanity against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, a decision met with mixed reaction.
  • Suspected rebels stabbed and hacked to death at least a dozen people in a village in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Saturday, a local government official said, in the latest in a series of attacks on civilians.
  • Kenya’s police squads have admitted for the first time to carrying out extrajudicial killings. Speaking to Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit, the officers discussed their involvement in the Kenyan government’s assassination program targeting suspected Muslim radicals.
  • Nigeria detained a Russian cargo plane and its French-speaking crew on Saturday after it made an unauthorised landing in the northern city of Kano with military hardware bound for neighbouring Chad, a security source said.

Middle East and Northern Africa

Asia

  • China’s foreign ministry rebuked the U.S. Congress on Monday after legislators passed a bill allowing the sale of second-hand warships to Taiwan, the self-ruled island which Beijing claims as a renegade province.
  • The United States will keep up to 1,000 more soldiers than previously planned in Afghanistan into next year, outgoing U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Saturday, in a recognition of the still formidable challenge from Taliban insurgents.

Europe

Americas

Oceania

UN/World

http://opiniojuris.org/2014/12/08/weekly-news-wrap-monday-december-8-2014/
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