The End of International Law (As We Know It)? 'Women' and the Construction of Another International Order

Duration: February 2019 - January 2023
Funder: Kone Foundation (individual grant, experienced researcher adjunct professor level)

Despite the recent ‘turn to history’ in international law, research on past international lawyers not gendered heteronormative men and their intellectual and professional contributions remains scarce.

Today’s leading scholarship in histories of international law and international thought excludes them, just as it excludes individuals from the Global South. Yet in the margins of the hegemonic spaces there were individuals who thought about and worked for an international (legal) order. The project starts redressing the ignorance or neglect of them and their inputs. Benefiting from research on national and transnational contexts, as well as studies in international relations, it calls for a greater diversity in imagining and representing international lawyers.

The socially, politically and in some cases legally constructed understandings of gender which divide roles, expertise and agendas into binaries of masculine and feminine have a temporality – with territorial and sectorial differences and without linear trajectories of emancipation – but remain relevant, nevertheless. The ‘difference’ has not been dissolved by the increased understanding of its complexity brought about by the gender studies. The project reaches beyond the corrective move to ‘redress old history’ by the mere integration of ‘women’, at times hagiographic. The project is driven by the desire to question the conditions of agency in international law and thereby to discover and engage with a broader range of ideas, even if at times expressed in idioms foreign to law.

The project has recourse to multi- and interdisciplinary approaches to tackle its questions that broaden the scope of research on ‘international lawyers’ and connect to the various narratives of international law not only as an academic and professional field but also as an ideological and political frame, today arguably under existential threats. Beyond advancing a more complete understanding of the profession of international lawyers and the ideological and material situatedness of its professionals, the project seeks for new or forgotten ideas and engagements of law-making, decision-taking, managing conflicts and resources, protecting the environment and co-existing with differences. It thereby underlines how the narratives of international law and lawyers in their (perceived) intellectual lineages and professional traditions matter to contemporary understandings of the desirable and plausible international order(s).