International Law and Popular Culture Symposium: Introduction

International Law and Popular Culture Symposium: Introduction

Opinio Juris, in collaboration with Rachel Jones, who some of you will recognize as the person behind NYU’s Institute for International Law and Justice Twitter handle (@nyuiilj), is happy to host what we believe to be the first symposium on “International Law & Pop Culture” in the IL blogosphere. Fittingly, this symposium would not have been possible without the existence of social media and Twitter, where the initial idea was hatched, half joking, half serious, several months ago. Upon Rachel’s initiative, and believing in the potential of the topic, we decided to approach a series of like-minded scholars – those who had written threads on Queen and book covers, ranked sci-fi books, and generally, saw international law not just through the eyes of a scholar, but also, of a fan.

This Symposium is premised on the idea that popular culture matters for the study, practice, and teaching of international law. International law aspires to be global and accessible, while pop culture is global and accessible: billions of people around the world engage with its products every day. By discussing popular culture from an academic perspective, we hope to imagine alternatives of what the world could be, offering many possible alternative visions of human beings, law, and justice; engage with students by making connections between popular culture and international law that help them become familiar with fundamental concepts; and create a space for conversation: how is international law imagined across popular culture compared to how professors teach it and how lawyers practice it? How is international law presented around the world in various places in different mediums: as a force for evil, good, order, or chaos?

We are very proud of the end result. The symposium opens with a post from Opinio Juris’ own Alonso Gurmendi, exploring issues of colonialism in 4X video games. From then, moving to board games, Nicolas Carrillo explores the pedagogical potential of Dungeons & Dragons. Michael Fakhri and Cris van Eijk then close the first half of the symposium with their two explorations on sci fi in international law scholarship. At this point, as a form of intermission, we present an interview with Anchuli Felicia King, playwright and screenwriter whose latest play, Golden Shield, explores the drama that ensues during an ATS-inspired fictional trial concerning a Chinese dissident’s claim against an American technology company for its involvement in building systems designed to facilitate online censorship in China. Instead of a lawyer talking about the scenic arts, we felt it would be interesting to have an artist talk about the law. The remaining posts address the most popular media in pop culture – movies. Ignacio de Casas will explore the use of Netflix’s “L’incredibile storia dell’Isola delle Rose”, a film about the real-life story of a micro-nation off the Italian coast; Vivek Bhatt will explore international law themes in “The Mauritanian”; Neiha Lasharie will explore issues of IHL in the context of Avatar: The Last Airbender; Sarah Zarmsky will discuss human rights issues in “Westworld”; and Prachi Tadsare will analyse how international law is represented in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We close the symposium with an exploration of “hegemonic international law” and Superman, by Ankit Malhotra.

We hope you enjoy this symposium – the first of its kind in our corner of the blogosphere, but hopefully not the last.

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