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Favourite Readings 2018: The Passage of Time

Published on December 19, 2018        Author: 
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Editor’s note: Continuing a tradition started by Isabel Feichtner a few years ago, EJIL’s Review Editor, Christian J. Tams, invited members of the EJIL board to offer short reflections on their favourite books of the year 2018. In the following days we will present some selections here on EJIL:Talk! They comprise a wide range of books, from (a few) doctrinal legal texts, to (many more) historical accounts and works of fiction. Unlike in many official book prize competitions, 2018 does not necessarily stand for the year of publication; rather, board members were asked to list books they read or re-read this year, and found inspiring or enjoyable. Today we give you Guy Fiti Sinclair’s favourites.

None of my chosen books would be found in the ‘341’ (or even ‘340’) stacks in a Dewey Decimal classified library, or in the KCs in a Moys-organized library such as the one at my law school. This is not because I haven’t read any books in those stacks this year. To the contrary, it turns out, somewhat to my own surprise, that I’ve actually managed this year to work my way through a fair few international law books – and books about international law, to adopt a to adopt a useful distinction I have heard from Joseph Weiler more than once – and read parts of many more. Nor is it that I’m worried that if I start listing books by international lawyers, one or another colleague will feel offended that I didn’t mention theirs (although I must admit this has crossed my mind).

Rather, I have decided to highlight books that I have read this year which spoke most directly to my current interests (one might say obsessions). Like many people, I suspect, I have spent much of the past year oscillating between trying to understand our current perplexing moment and trying not to think about it. These books have helped, one way or the other.

Nitsan Chorev, Remaking U.S. Trade Politics: From Protectionism to Globalization (Cornell University Press, 2007)

Kristen Hopewell, Breaking the WTO: How Emerging Powers Disrupted the Neoliberal Project (Stanford University Press, 2016) Read the rest of this entry…

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Favourite Readings 2018: Discovering (new) classics, better late than never

Published on December 18, 2018        Author: 
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Editor’s note: Continuing a tradition started by Isabel Feichtner a few years ago, EJIL’s Review Editor, Christian J. Tams, invited members of the EJIL board to offer short reflections on their favourite books of the year 2018. In the following days we will present some selections here on EJIL:Talk! They comprise a wide range of books, from (a few) doctrinal legal texts, to (many more) historical accounts and works of fiction. Unlike in many official book prize competitions, 2018 does not necessarily stand for the year of publication; rather, board members were asked to list books they read or re-read this year, and found inspiring or enjoyable. Today we have Sarah Nouwen’s choices.

Sometimes, writing is easier without reading. Skim-reading the most recent work on a topic, one may find sufficient disagreements to pick a fight with. But truly widely reading about a topic, going back several decades, if not centuries, makes one realise how many of one’s arguments have already been made, and much better. Ultimately, of course, it is such wide reading that allows one’s own work to mature. It is also an act of rebellion against the pressures of quantitative assessments of one’s work, and an inspiring source for the scholar’s primary job: to educate, first oneself, and then others.

So, in the spirit of better late than never, this year’s list includes some books that I should have read long ago.

Karen Knop’s Diversity and Self-Determination in International Law (2002)

I opened this book to develop a stronger grasp on the international law of self-determination. I closed it with an even broader understanding of everything that self-determination could mean, depending on who interprets it, and who gets to participate in the process of interpretation. Putting her finger on one of the paradoxes of self-determination, Knop shows that those most affected by self-determination are often excluded from the process of its legal interpretation. While this may be the case for many legal norms, it is paradoxical for self-determination, which is essentially concerned with people deciding for themselves.

But the book’s significance goes far beyond self-determination. I’ll use it for teaching classes on interpretation: thought you knew what this text meant? Read Knop and you’ll be surprised in how many ways the same few lines can be understood, depending on one’s world view and what we consider coherent or incoherent.

Rita Kesselring, Bodies of Truth: Law, Memory, and Emancipation in Post-Apartheid South Africa (2017) Read the rest of this entry…

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Favourite Readings 2018: The Power of Words

Published on December 17, 2018        Author: 
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Editor’s note: Continuing a tradition started by Isabel Feichtner a few years ago, EJIL’s Review Editor, Christian J. Tams, invited members of the EJIL board to offer short reflections on their favourite books of the year 2018. In the following days we will present some selections here on EJIL:Talk! They comprise a wide range of books, from (a few) doctrinal legal texts, to (many more) historical accounts and works of fiction. Unlike in many official book prize competitions, 2018 does not necessarily stand for the year of publication; rather, board members were asked to list books they read or re-read this year, and found inspiring or enjoyable. Today we have selections from Jan Klabbers.

Somehow, 2018 has been for me a year of epistemic concerns, of wondering about the social, emotional and above all political power of language and words and concepts. Many of my favourite readings of the year are related to the exercise of power, legal and otherwise, by epistemic means: the exercise of power through the ways in which we use our concepts, our words; through the ways we express our thoughts, and the ways in which these thoughts come to lead a life of their own, relatively independent even from the work we originally wanted those thoughts to do. This runs like a red thread through all the academic studies on this list, and even, in perhaps less obvious ways, through the non-academic works as well, characterized as these are by their distinct use of language.

Perhaps the most gratifying book I read during 2018 is written by Guy Fiti Sinclair, To Reform the World: International Organizations and the Making of Modern States (2017). I am not the only one who thinks the book is excellent: a jury of the European Society of International Law awarded it the Society’s ‘book of the year’ prize, so I am in good company. Read the rest of this entry…

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Favourite Readings 2018: Nine Good Reads and One Viewing

Published on December 14, 2018        Author: 
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Editor’s note: Continuing a tradition started by Isabel Feichtner a few years ago, EJIL’s Review Editor, Christian J. Tams, invited members of the EJIL board to offer short reflections on their favourite books of the year 2018. In the following days we will present some selections here on EJIL:Talk! They comprise a wide range of books, from (a few) doctrinal legal texts, to (many more) historical accounts and works of fiction. Unlike in many official book prize competitions, 2018 does not necessarily stand for the year of publication; rather, board members were asked to list books they read or re-read this year, and found inspiring or enjoyable. We are starting off the small series with selections from our Editor-in-Chief,  Joesph Weiler.

For the first time I have managed to prepare my Good Reads to post on EJIL:Talk! well before Christmas. I publish my pick from some of the books that have come my way during the past year. These are not book reviews in the classical and rigorous sense of the word, for which you should turn to our Book Review section. I do not attempt to analyse or critique, but rather to explain why the books appealed to me and why I think you, too, may find them well worth reading.

Marcel Reich-Ranicki, The Author of Himself: The Life of Marcel Reich-Ranicki (Princeton University Press, 2001) 

My German readers will be shaking their head in some wonderment: Marcel Reich-Ranicki? Him again? An autobiography from 1999 of a person who died in 2013? Did he not speak enough about he, him and himself during his lifetime so as to last a few lifetimes? My non-German speakers will be shaking their heads with a different wonderment: Marcel Reich who?

But then, consider that when published this book was the no. 1 best-selling book in Germany for 52 weeks. Must be something there, no? Read the rest of this entry…

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New EJIL: Live! Interview with Frédéric Mégret

Published on December 13, 2018        Author: 
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In this episode of EJIL: Live! the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal, Professor Joseph Weiler, speaks with Frédéric Mégret, Associate Professor and Dawson Scholar in the Faculty of Law at McGill University in Montreal, whose article “International Criminal Justice as a Peace Project”, appears in our 29:3 issue as part of a Symposium on “The Crime of Aggression before the International Criminal Court”.

Prof. Mégret argues in his article that the Kampala adoption of the crime of aggression needs to be understood as part of the long-term evolution of international criminal justice as a peace project. The conversation takes up the provocative proposition put forward in the article that the shift away from jus contra bellum considerations towards a primary focus on war crimes and crimes against humanity as the central theme of international criminal justice has diminished the urgency of preventing war itself. The interview was recorded at New York University.

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EJIL:Talk! Is 10 Years Old

Published on December 10, 2018        Author: 
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Yesterday and today saw the marking of a couple of significant anniversaries in international law. 9 December was the 70th anniversary of the adoption, by the United Nations General Assembly of the Genocide Convention. Today is Human Rights Day and is the 70th anniversary of the adoption, also by the General Assembly, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).  We are at EJIL are also marking are own anniversaries. The Journal was founded in 1989 and will  have been published for 30 years in the New Year (see this call for papers). EJIL:Talk! is a decade old this week!

The blog was launched on 9 December 2008. Our first posts on that day (here and here) followed on from a special issue of EJIL marking the 60th anniversary of the UDHR and contained a, shall we say ‘spicy’, exchange on relationship between human rights and international economic law.  We followed up that same day with an editorial by EJIL’s Editor-in-Chief, Joseph Weiler, in which he also marked the UDHR and reflected on the crisis of the day in the European Union – the demise of the European ‘Constitution’ and the troubles then caused to entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon by the Irish vote of ‘No’ in a referendum. There were calls then for the Irish to be asked to vote again! My own first post on this blog was on 12 December and sticking with the human rights theme, I opened with a post on ‘The Application of Human Rights Treaties in Wartime’.

We will be celebrating the decade old existence of the blog properly in the New Year. For now, I would simply like to remind readers that when the blog started 10 years ago, it was a venture into the unknown. There were a number of blogs around but the combination of a leading journal (or even any journal) having its own blog and having the aim of making it a scholarly blog which would carry on the project of serious reflection on legal issues was rare, if not completely unknown. EJIL:Talk! was thus an experiment. 

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EJIL Call for Papers: International Law and Democracy Revisited – The EJIL 30th Anniversary Symposium

Published on November 17, 2018        Author: 
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EJIL was founded in 1989, coinciding with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the attendant excitement encapsulated by that well-known optimistic/hubristic End of History phraseology, with predictions of liberal democracy to become regnant in the world and a New International Legal Order to replace the old First World-Second World-Third World distinctions.

Thirty years later the state of democracy, whether liberal or social or any other variant, seems to be far from sanguine.

Here is but a partial list of the challenges to democracy in the contemporary world:

  • The advent of so-called ‘illiberal democracies’
  • The crisis and breakdown of trust within established democracies
  • The reality or otherwise of states with ‘formal democracy’ often reduced to little more than elections, more or less free
  • The accountability and rule of law concerns, famously termed GAL concerns, which transnational governance regimes raise as indispensable features of democracy
  • The persistent ‘democracy deficit’ or ‘political deficit’ of the European Union and similar Organizations
  • The emergence of the global ‘data economy’ with mega platforms calling into question basic assumptions about territory and jurisdiction and calling into question the ability of democratic regimes to reign in such platforms increasingly questioned
  • The impact of both financial markets and international monetary bodies on the internal margin of manoeuvre and democratic choices of economic management
  • Democracy and global inequality: The relationship between counter-democratic ideologies, legal reforms and political processes at the domestic and global levels and social and economic processes such as the shrinking middle class and the lasting ramifications of the 2008 economic crisis.

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New Issue of EJIL (Vol. 29 (2018) No. 3) Published

Published on November 9, 2018        Author: 
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The latest issue of the European Journal of International Law (Vol. 29, No. 3) is out today. As usual, the table of contents of the new issue is available at EJIL’s own website, where readers can access those articles that are freely available without subscription. The free access article in this issue is Frédéric Mégret’s International Criminal Justice as a Peace Project. EJIL subscribers have full access to the latest issue of the journal at EJIL’s Oxford University Press site. Apart from articles published in the last 12 months, EJIL articles are freely available on the EJIL website.

 

 

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Publish and Perish: A Plea to Deans, Faculty Chairpersons, University Authorities

Published on November 8, 2018        Author: 
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Item: EJIL and I.CON, like most of their peers, used to classify article submissions into three categories: Accept, Revise and Resubmit, and Reject. In recent times, a good few years now, we have added what we call ‘Category 4’. It happens increasingly that on the first screening of an article we come to seemingly contradictory conclusions. On the one hand, the piece may be striking in any number of ways: the choice of topic, the originality of the principal argument, the novel empirical data therein. On the other hand, our accumulated experience tells us that it will never pass peer review, not even the Revise and Resubmit threshold. It is simply too rushed and hence too raw. That’s why the Category 4 was invented. An encouraging letter is sent to the author indicating that we believe there is much promise in the piece but it requires a general overhaul before the specific road map, which is the hallmark of a good Revise and Resubmit peer report, can take place: more research, more depth in developing arguments, more attention to counter arguments, more care in expressing them, etc.

Item: In preparing a tenure review report, or assisting in an entry-level appointment process I read the file – a dozen articles or so. One is strikingly good. A handful, truly mediocre. One or two, real garbage. From the same hand, from the same mind. How so uneven? We cannot be at our best in everything we put out, but I am talking discrepancies that go beyond that standard distribution.

Item: I’m a commentator in our post-doc workshop. I later meet with the young scholar to give detailed comments and suggestions for the work. You’ll need, I say, a good few months, maybe half a year’s more work to produce what could become a splendid piece. The post-doc looks at me forgivingly: ‘It won’t happen. My dean expects us to publish seven pieces (!) in two years. I have to move on.’ This ‘quota’ may be at the higher end but is not atypical. I later see the piece, in its original form, on SSRN and eventually in some journal. Read the rest of this entry…

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EJIL Vol. 29 (2018) No. 3: In This Issue

Published on November 7, 2018        Author: 
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This issue of the European Journal of International Law features prominently the theme of ‘Perpetrators and Victims of War’.

We open the issue with a series of articles focusing on International Criminal Law. Sofia Stolk starts off by shedding light on the construction of an ‘ideal perpetrator’ – a ‘sophisticated beast’ in international criminal law trials – to allow both accountability and condemnation. A complementary perspective is put forward by Christine Schwöbel-Patel, who analyses the social, political and legal construction of the ‘ideal victim’. Following, Line Gissel scrutinizes Africa’s support for the International Criminal Court (ICC) between 1993-2003. Alexandra Adams concludes this section with an examination of the legacy of the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda and their contributions to the intricate definition of rape.

In the next section, we feature the penultimate instalment of our Symposium on International Law and the First World War, focusing in this issue on the end of the War. Randall Lesaffer retraces the development of aggression as a concept of international law, showing that a long history of thought on use of force law preceded the Versailles Peace Treaty. Markus M. Payk analyses the Paris Peace Settlement after the Great War, examining the impact that notions of law, justice and legality had on the negotiations leading to the Settlement in the Allies’ quest to establish the ‘reign of law’.

Roaming Charges features a photograph of the stunning relief found in Wroclaw by the local sculptor Eugeniusz Get Stankiewicz: ‘The Crucifixion – Do It Yourself’. We are all perpetrators is one lesson one may take from this work of art. Read the rest of this entry…

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