[Elena Baylis is Associate Professor of Law at the University of Pittsburgh]
In my role as commentator for the in-person symposium that preceded this online symposium, I took on the task of identifying common themes among the symposium papers. This essay focuses on a few of the ideas drawn from the papers as a whole.
Treating international law as behavior engenders several kinds of complexity centered on a set of classic epistemological questions: what do we know and how do we know it? By using theoretical and methodological approaches drawn from sociology, anthropology, international relations, and other disciplines, we can observe aspects of international legal behavior that are not accessible through traditional legal analysis. The symposium participants describe international legal actions such as development of expertise, engagement with deadlines, and epistemic cooperation, by a wide variety of actors, including individuals, institutions, organizations, states and divisions thereof, and networks and communities. Even apart from the value of the analysis developed to explain and categorize this behavior, there is some satisfaction simply in exposing these many actors and modes of action to our view. However, doing so requires grappling with difficult methodological, theoretical, and conceptual questions.
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Thanks to Opinio Juris and to YJIL for giving me the opportunity to comment on Tara Melish’s article, From Paradox to Subsidiarity: The United States and Human Rights Treaty Bodies. I have long been a fan of Tara’s work, and so it’s a pleasure to have the chance to respond to...