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On My Way Out IV – Teaching

Published on January 25, 2017        Author: 

I have almost reached the final phase of my academic and professional career and as I look back I want to offer, for what it is worth, some Do’s and Don’ts on different topics to younger scholars in the early phases of theirs. A lot of what I may say will appear to many as a statement of the obvious – but if it so appears ask yourself why so many experienced and seasoned academics still fall into the trap. In previous Editorials I addressed the art of delivering a conference paper, the management of one’s scholarly agenda and the pitfalls of editing or contributing to edited books. I turn here to the issue of teaching.

To put it mildly, there is considerable ambiguity, even ambivalence, in the messages, explicit and implicit, that a young university teacher receives upon starting his or her academic career as regards teaching. To be sure, much lip service is paid to the importance of teaching as part of the academic duties of the young teacher. Practice varies but in several systems, especially in the early stages of one’s career, the title itself provides an indication: Instructor, Lecturer (even Senior Lecturer) and in several languages the title Professor itself indicates primarily the teaching function. Applicants are oftentimes required to provide a Statement on Teaching and in some systems there is a requirement and in others it is desirable to provide, in addition to a scholarly portfolio, demonstration of some ‘teaching practice’.

But consider the following, almost universal, paradox. To receive a position as a kindergarten teacher, an elementary school teacher or a high school teacher, in most jurisdictions the applicant would have to have undergone specialized training – in addition to any subject-matter university degree he or she may have earned – to occupy a position of such individual and collective responsibility. The exception? University teachers. There are very, very few universities around the world that require any measure of formal training in the art and science of university teaching. A doctorate has become an almost universal requirement for teaching in our field – the USA being the glaring exception (as regards law). It is a requirement in practically all other disciplines in the USA. And yet typically a doctorate programme is training for research, not for teaching. Read the rest of this entry…

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EJIL: In this Issue; Emma Thomas – May the Force Be With You!; EJIL Roll of Honour

Published on January 24, 2017        Author: 

This issue opens with an EJIL: Keynote article, in which Philippe Sands contemplates the ends (and end) of judicialization. Based on his lecture at the 2015 ESIL annual conference in Oslo, it forms a fitting introduction to an issue that addresses overarching questions of legitimacy in international law, from the reception of international law in Asia to strong reactions to the idea of global governance by the WTO judiciary. An EJIL: Live! interview with Philippe Sands (posted earlier this week) complements the article.

This issue’s first regular article is Vincent Chetail’s critique of the dominant narrative of migration control, drawing on early doctrines of the law of nations regarding the free movement of persons across borders, and thus offering an innovative path for rethinking this critical contemporary issue. In another example of looking back in order to confront difficult issues of today, Jan Lemnitzer draws on original archival research to propose the adoption of an adversarial model of a commission of inquiry for investigating the downing of flight MH17.

We are pleased to present in this issue a Symposium comprising three articles giving attention to international law in Asia. Simon Chesterman explores the reasons for Asia’s under-participation and under-representation in international law and institutions, and predicts greater convergence and presence of Asia in global governance. Melissa Loja looks to archival records in order to shed new light on one of the most pressing questions of international law in Asia: the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands dispute. And Zhiguanq Yin’s article focuses on the translation of international law in the 19th century into China, thereby questioning the universality of Euro-centric jurisprudence. Read the rest of this entry…

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Readings 2016: On the Fringes of International Law

Published on December 30, 2016        Author: 

Editor’s Note: As in previous years, EJIL’s Book Review Editor, Isabel Feichtner, invited our Board members to reflect on the books that have had a significant impact on them this year. In the following days we will present some selections here on EJIL:Talk! They include books, not necessarily published in 2016, but read or reread this year, and found inspiring or enjoyable. These editors’ choices are not intended to be a prize in disguise, but rather are personalized accounts of the reading experiences of our Board members. Today we have André Nollkaempe’s selection.

The five titles on my 2016 list of books relate to international law in very different ways. What they have in common is that they are not so much concerned with the substance of international law, but rather with questions relating to its emergence and the practical implications of international law. Sometimes books that hardly use the language of international law can be most illuminating for international lawyers.

Peter Wadhams, A Farewell to Ice. A Report from the Arctic (Allen Lane, 2016)

Peter Wadhams’ A Farewell to Ice masterfully shows how the liberties of international law impact on climate change and result in a thinning and retreating of polar ice with scary speed and consequences. Wadhams, a polar researcher in Cambridge, notes that ‘we have created an ocean where there was once an ice sheet’ and that this is ‘[m]an’s first major achievement in reshaping the face of his planet’. Wadhams pictures a particularly glooming scenario for 2035, when the Arctic seabeds – permafrost from the last ice age – will melt and release massive methane plumes that are over 20 times more effective in raising global temperature than all the CO2 we have focused on. The book sketches powerful images of floods, fires, droughts, storms, and inundation of low-lying areas –with dramatic consequences for human habitation and lives. While international law has facilitated and legitimized the policies leading to these consequences, Wadhams vests some hope in international law; he sees the Paris Agreement as a sign of common will to act. Yet, much more is needed to avert the gloomy consequences of climate change – mainly research and investment in new technologies (wind, wave, solar, tidal and nuclear energy) need to be incentivized. Post-US elections this is not a happy reading, but one that is needed to compel us to action.
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Readings 2016: On Politics and Ethics and Love

Published on December 29, 2016        Author: 

Editor’s Note: As in previous years, EJIL’s Book Review Editor, Isabel Feichtner, invited our Board members to reflect on the books that have had a significant impact on them this year. In the following days we will present some selections here on EJIL:Talk! They include books, not necessarily published in 2016, but read or reread this year, and found inspiring or enjoyable. These editors’ choices are not intended to be a prize in disguise, but rather are personalized accounts of the reading experiences of our Board members. Today we have Jan Klabbers’ selection.

Alice Kaplan, The Collaborator: The Trial and Execution of Robert Brasillach (The University of Chicago Press, 2000)

Aristotle already knew that people are political animals. Yet, he also realized that people are ethical beings, and for him, there was no necessary conflict between the two: the ethically flourishing person was one who was intensely and seriously political. In our days, however, that understanding has all but disappeared, with much political debate collapsing into partisan positions where it is considered more important to keep the ranks closed and emerge victorious over opponents than doing the right thing or somehow finding a decent compromise. Whether on debates within Britain on membership of the EU, whether in US presidential elections, or whether in discussions in the ‘comments’ section on EJIL: Talk!, political debate is rarely genuine these days.

This is one reason why the story of Robert Brasillach is so interesting, and it is told extremely well in Alice Kaplan’s The Collaborator. Brasillach was a young French novelist, strongly drawn to Nazism before and during World War II, and seriously collaborating with the Nazis – so much so, that he would urge them not to forget to send children to the gas chambers as well. Not surprisingly, after the war he was prosecuted and found guilty of collaboration, and sentenced to death. At this point some people started a campaign to commute the death sentence and, again not surprisingly, many on the political left in post-war French refused to sign up. Read the rest of this entry…

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Readings 2016: The Odds Are There to Beat

Published on December 27, 2016        Author: 

Editor’s Note: As in previous years, EJIL’s Book Review Editor, Isabel Feichtner, invited our Board members to reflect on the books that have had a significant impact on them this year. In the following days we will present some selections here on EJIL:Talk! They include books, not necessarily published in 2016, but read or reread this year, and found inspiring or enjoyable. These editors’ choices are not intended to be a prize in disguise, but rather are personalized accounts of the reading experiences of our Board members.  Today we have Jean d’Aspremont’s selection.

Every year, when we as Editors of EJIL conduct the retrospective (and somewhat introspective) exercise of looking back at the books we have read over the previous 12 months, I always find myself bewildered by the imbalance between the rather modest amount of books I have perused and the huge number of articles I have thoroughly digested. It seems that, in my own practice of consuming legal scholarship, the number of pages of legal literature I read in scholarly books is not commensurate with the substantially higher number of pages of journal articles. Although I am short of empirical data relating to such patterns of behaviour, I surmise that this may be a widespread reading practice among international lawyers. My feeling is that international lawyers read articles – not to mention blog posts and tweets – by the hundreds while seriously reading only a dozen books every year. This disproportion is not alleviated by the fact, already highlighted by Sarah Nouwen last year that we actually read very few books cover to cover.

This imbalance warrants some attention as I do not think that international lawyers’ substantially higher consumption of article-based legal scholarship over book-based literature can be explained solely by size. After all, many books nowadays are rather thin – which, in some respects, is a good thing! – and many articles, especially in the Anglo-American tradition, are rather lengthy – which, in some other respects, is regrettable. I also suspect that the imbalance between books and articles in the reading practice of international lawyers has not always been so great. I would guess that there were times when the legal literature read by international lawyers was more or less evenly spread between books and journal articles, not to mention the pre-periodical era when scholarship was exclusively found in books. Read the rest of this entry…

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Ten Good Reads for Christmas – Editor-in-Chief’s Choices for 2016

Published on December 23, 2016        Author: 

Editor’s Note: As in previous years, EJIL’s Book Review Editor, Isabel Feichtner, invited our Board members to reflect on the books that have had a significant impact on them this year. In the following days we will present some selections here on EJIL:Talk! They include books, not necessarily published in 2016, but read or reread this year, and found inspiring or enjoyable. These editors’ choices are not intended to be a prize in disguise, but rather are personalised accounts of the reading experiences of our Board members. We begin with our Editor-in-Chief’s selection.

As is now our custom, I list 10 of the books I read during the last year which stood out and which I do not hesitate to recommend to our readers. The law books – seven in all – are actually all relatively recent. Though typically I list the books in no particular order, I make an exception this time for the first in the list, Philippe Sand’s East West Street.

Philippe Sands, East West Street (Knopf, 2016)

East West Street is simply a must read; forgive the cliché for a book which is the opposite of cliché. It is both a Law Book and Book about the Law, as the subtitle indicates: On the Origins of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity. But it is so much more. It has novel-like qualities (and a very fine novel at that) in weaving together the lives of its various protagonists as well as being an altogether not kitschy personal roots exploration of the author, Philippe Sands himself. He is not only author but decidedly one of the protagonists. It is not exactly a page-turner – that would actually diminish the quality and achievement of Sands, but despite its considerable length, it is hard to put down. You will learn a lot, become wiser and be moved in more ways than one. Last year I sang the praise of Sebald. Sand’s book has Sebald qualities and there is no higher praise in my evaluative vocabulary.

Mario Vargas Llosa, Travesuras de la niña mala (Alfaguara, 2006)

Travesuras de la niña mala by Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa was an easy choice, even if I typically prefer his essayistic writing to his novels. It is a very traditional novel in style – which is one of its attractions. You will not be struggling with post-modernist experimentation, which is wonderful when it works (not often) and awful when it does not (frequently). The story begins with the first love of a 14 year-old (the dates, at least, correspond to Vargas Llosa’s own time line). It is no less than marvellous the ability of a 70 year-old to describe with such delicate and empathetic precision the mental world of the young protagonist – el niño bueno – whose enduring love affair with the complex and compelling niña mala the novel tracks. Not a ‘masterpiece’ but a piece of wonderful writing by a master that will stick in your mind. Read the rest of this entry…

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A Further Note on Civility and the Moderation of Comments on EJIL: Talk!

Published on November 17, 2016        Author: 

In a recent Editorial EJIL reconfirmed its commitment to a robust policy of freedom of speech and academic freedom. A few weeks ago I also noted that:

We welcome robust and critical analysis and comment — including the slaughtering of Holy Cows. We welcome both the harsh and the whimsical. But it has always been the policy of EJIL that we endeavor to maintain a tone that does not offend good taste and that in interpersonal exchanges — in our debates in EJIL and in comments on EJIL Talk — disagreements are expressed in a non disagreeable manner.

One’s commitment to the freedom of speech and academic freedom is tested when confronted with speech with which one strongly disagrees and might even consider offensive. The ability to respond, contest and debate, on equal footing and in the same forum, is often time the best form of dealing with these issues — which is the default policy of EJIL in all its outlets — the Journal itself with its policy of EJIL Debates, EJIL Talk! and EJIL Live.

There are limits to all freedoms, especially when they conflict with other equally fundamental values such as dignity or reputation – though where exactly these limits lie is an issue itself hotly contested. Our tendency is to err on the side of academic freedom and freedom of expression. In the libel suit against EJIL we vigorously defended a contested book review, but as we stated there, had we considered that the contested book review had crossed the line into defamatory territory we would have withdrawn the book review. The French judiciary confirmed our assessment that the line had not been crossed, offensive and painful as the author of the book in question found the review.

Censoring the substance and material content of a position is thus something that should be done with great caution and only in extremis, no matter how offending one finds the contested opinion.

EJIL: Talk draws another line, that of civility of discourse, particularly pertinent, given the nature of the forum – unedited, non-refereed, comments – and the habits and customs of unbridled talkbacks rife on the net. We would feel such is inappropriate on the blog of a scholarly journal as we understand ourselves.

The comments in response to the recent post on the future of the SOGI mandate give rise to these issues. To judge from some emails I received, some of our readers considered that the substantive content of some of the views expressed were unacceptable for publication. I do not think that they reached that level. I have placed this type of question on the agenda of the next meeting of the full Editorial Board so that it can be addressed with the necessary deliberation and gravitas.

But on one element in that exchange it is our duty to take a position right now. We are aware that in the passion of a debate on strongly held beliefs, the line might be crossed inadvertently. Be that as it may, the ad personam characterization of Mr Vitit Muntarbhorn  as a “a political ideologue [rather] than a serious human rights lawyer,” crosses, in all the circumstances of the case, the limits of civil discourse to which EJIL aspires. Not surprisingly other similar personal characterizations followed.

In writing to me some readers used very similar characterization of the authors of these comments –  but such views would be equally unacceptable for publication in EJIL Talk!

I have therefore decided, in consultation with the Editors of the Blog, in light of the unfortunate turn in the tone of discussion in the comment thread to the post on the SOGI mandate, to close the thread for further comment. The editors of the blog do not wish to engage in substantive censorship, but incivility will not be tolerated and infringing comments will be moderated as appropriate under the circumstances.

I repeat yet again: We welcome robust and critical analysis and comment — including the slaughtering of Holy Cows. We welcome both the harsh and the whimsical. But it has always been the policy of EJIL that we endeavour to maintain a tone that does not offend good taste and that especially in interpersonal exchanges disagreements be expressed in a non-disagreeable manner. Critical in content, civil in expression.

I have asked the Editors of the EJIL Talk! to be vigilant in ensuring the continued civil tone of the blog. We expect contributors to the blog to respect its sensibilities.

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Continent in Crisis

Published on October 7, 2016        Author: 

Note from Joseph Weiler, Editor-in-Chief of the European Journal of International Law:

I have invited Jan Klabbers, member of our Scientific Advisory Board, to write a Guest Editorial for this issue of EJIL (Vol. 27 (2016) No. 3).

In the early 1990s, when many were dancing in the streets to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall and the long-awaited arrival of the end of history in the form of a liberal victory, historian Mark Mazower was working on a book that would caution some sobriety. The victory of liberalism, he wrote, had not been inevitable, nor due to its inner charms and attractions; it had, instead, been hard-won, locked in deadly battle with the forces of totalitarianism both on the left and the right. The fact that liberal democracy came out victorious owed as much to the failings, structural and strategic, of fascism and communism as to liberalism’s own virtues. If anything, so Mazower demonstrated, Europe has always been a rich and fertile soil for totalitarian movements; the fact that these were momentarily defeated should not result in too much complacency and self-congratulations about European values and all that.

Recent events demonstrate painfully just how correct Mazower’s assessment was. While communism remains largely dead and buried (unless one counts the surprise emergence of left-wing politicians in the UK and even the US as manifestations of a resurgence), Euro-fascism is clearly on the rise again. This is visible in Hungary and Poland, where the Rule of Law has been all but abandoned or, in an alternative narrative, cynically deployed so as to undermine itself. This is visible in much of the Balkans, with governments building fences and walls to keep out people fleeing persecution and destitution. This is visible in the streets of Finland, where self-appointed vigilantes patrol the streets at night in order to fight largely imaginary crimes, and find considerable encouragement in the speech by which the President inaugurated the parliamentary year in 2016. This is visible in Denmark, which enacts laws to strip poor people of their belongings so as to pay for being treated unkindly. This is visible in the streets of Germany and the Netherlands, with Pegida demonstrations demanding attention. This is visible in Ukraine, where the streets are filled with Russian militias. This is visible in the United Kingdom’s rediscovered isolationism mixed with delusions of grandeur. This is visible, in short, all over Europe: the triumph of liberal democracy is quickly giving way to the triumph of what can only be called some kind of fascism. And it is not limited to Europe, if the presidential campaigning in the US is anything to go by: who would have thought, even a few months ago, that a vulgar loudmouth such as Donald Trump, not hindered by any trait of common decency, would stand any chance of success? Read the rest of this entry…

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There is Chutzpah and Then There is David Cameron

Published on October 6, 2016        Author: 

It is hard to translate the Yiddish word Chutzpah. Cheek doesn’t quite capture it. ‘What a cheek’ is not the same as ‘What Chutzpah’. Chutzpah involves a certain brazenness. ‘What Chutzpah’ is usually associated with a rubbing of the eyes or a shake of the head in disbelief. Even a kind of perverse admiration. The classical example of Chutzpah is the son who kills his mother and father and then turns to the judge and pleads: Mercy, I’m an orphan.

Cameron has taken Chutzpah to new heights.

A good place to start would be in the final weeks of the campaign when Cameron’s refrain was ‘Brits don’t Quit!’ Rub your eyes – this from the Brit who just months earlier had presented his ‘either we get this and this and that or, well yes, we quit’. Takes some nerve, does it not? Of course to have any credibility in his pre-referendum Brussels negotiations he would have to sell himself and his country as ready to quit.

You would think that in playing against the grain of ‘Brits don’t quit’ there would have to be something huge at stake. You may just remember the weeks that became months when the world and its sister were waiting for him to present his list of demands. You will certainly not have forgotten the disdainful disbelief from all and sundry when he finally presented his Potage of Lentils – that thin gruel of demands for which he was willing to gamble the future of the UK membership of the European Union and much more.

It was also an insult to one’s political intelligence. As a ploy to address internal party politics – the real reason behind the whole unfortunate manoeuvre – did he really believe that even if his demands were met in full (and they mostly were) this would keep the wolves at bay? Even more damning in my view, it was clear that Cameron never grasped the serious problems of the European construct which, if one were to use the ‘nuclear option’ of threatening to quit, could and perhaps should have been raised. Read the rest of this entry…

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On My Way Out – Advice to Young Scholars III: Edited Book

Published on October 5, 2016        Author: 

I have most certainly reached the final phase of my academic and professional career and as I look back I want to offer, for what it is worth, some dos and don’ts on different topics to younger scholars in the early phases of theirs. This is the third instalment and it is one in which, even more than my earlier instalments, I look back ruefully and in St Augustine fashion offer a ‘don’t do what I did…’ set of suggestions.

A more appropriate title would have been Unedited Books and the crux of my advice is – proceed with caution, avoid if at all possible.

The routine is well-known and well-practised. You receive an invitation to present a paper at some conference. You accept (see below). You may adapt something you have already written or something that you are working on which is in some way connected. It is often not exactly what the conveners had asked for or had in mind, but perhaps close enough so as not to have to reject the invitation. The conveners are often accomplices in this little approximation. They are committed to the conference; it is often part of some grant they have received. Almost always you are pressed for time – after all it is not as if these invitations arrive when you are sitting back, twiddling your thumbs and looking for things to do. In general they are disruptive of your flow of work. So the result is not as good as it might have been. Sounds familiar?

You attend the conference. It shows. The papers presented are of very variable quality and relevance. There is the usual conference overload so that the habitual 10-15 minute ‘commentator’ input may be interesting but of limited value to your paper. The general (‘unfortunately we only have xx minutes for questions’) discussion is even less so – how many actually read the papers (which not infrequently arrive two days before the conference)? Still sounds familiar? Read the rest of this entry…

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