The Strange Case of Dr. Ivana Radačić

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I have never met Dr. Radačić, but we have published a piece by her in EJIL. Her career has hit a road block for reasons which, I believe, are of interest to the definition, scope and place of international legal scholarship within the academy and to the processes with which careers are made or unmade.

In Croatia, apparently the first step in an academic career is to obtain the title of Research Associate/Lecturer, the qualification for which are, inter alia, having a Ph.D and the publication of at least six scholarly articles.

Now comes the rub: one has to be a Research Associate/Lecturer in a specific branch of law which corresponds to the departmental divisions within the overall faculties – in our case the faculties of law. Getting this title in Croatia involves a two-stage process: a positive assessment by a law faculty, which is then sent for approval (or otherwise) to the National Committee of Law.

Here is a sample of titles in English which form part of Dr. Radačić’s corpus of work. Most of them can be found on the web:

•        Gender Equality Jurisprudence of the ECHR  ̶ which we published in EJIL

•        The European Court Approach to Sex Discrimination  ̶ European Gender Equality Law Review

•        Feminism and Human Rights – The Inclusive Approach to Interpreting International Human Rights Law  – UCL Jurisprudence Review

•        Rape Cases in the Jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights  – European Human Rights Law Review

•        Religious Symbols in Educational Institutions – Jurisprudence of the ECHR  – Religion and Human Rights Review

•        The Margin of Appreciation, Consensus, Morality and the Rights of Vulnerable Groups – Zb. Prav. fak. Rij.

•        Human Rights of Women and the Public/Private divide in International Human Rights Law – Croatia Yearbook of European Law and Policy.

In 2009 a committee of the Law Faculty of Zagreb confirmed that Dr. Radačić met the criteria for scientific appointment, but in the interdisciplinary field of gender studies and not under any recognized branch of law  ̶  including international law. This of course left her in a blind alleyway.  More recently, in January 2012, the Osijek Law School confirmed that her work did fall within the branch of international law, even though some of it could also come under family law or criminal law. They made a positive recommendation, but it was turned down this time by a majority decision of the National Committee, stating that her work did not fall within the field of international law. This Committee was apparently composed in part by members of the Zagreb faculty who had either been part of the earlier (negative) process or had publicly expressed opinions on her non-suitability. The National Committee does not publish a ‘motivation’ for its decision. ‘Kafkaesque’ is the term that comes to my mind.

 Dr. Radačić has started legal proceedings in Croatia – but the windmills of justice are notoriously slow and the (understandable) reluctance of courts to intervene in academic decisions is well known. I am not holding my breath.

 Several issues are worthy of comment. I can see arguments one way or another for a system which insists on ‘departmental’ classification of scholarship and scholars. But it gives pause when someone whose scholarship does not fall neatly into these schemes is, as a result, denied the credentials to pursue an academic career. It is not only a question of justice and equity, but is also detrimental to intellectual and academic innovation which oftentimes consists in crossing over, in bridging disciplines and in creating new categories and disciplines. A very distinguished professor in Croatia with whom I discussed this case commented wryly: ‘Ivana’s case … is also a result of a tragic paradigm according to which students (doctoral students too) should know only what is already known and not anything new or different.’

The list above is representative of the scholarship of Dr. Radačić. I have not ‘screened’ each and every one for quality, but in terms of subject matter I would certainly see all of them as potential articles in the European Journal of International Law. I would see them as candidates for publication in I·CON too and any number of other journals. But that is neither here nor there. Gender issues by definition cross disciplines. A focus on the ECHR system and a specialization in gender issues seems to me run of the mill for an international lawyer. Her training at UCL among other law faculties would certainly equip her to teach a much broader range of IL issues, but to characterize this scholarship as not within what has become a rather catholic field  ̶  international law  ̶  strikes me as odd. One law faculty says it is interdisciplinary work, but is told that they are not competent to make such a determination. Another faculty determines that it is international law (and they are surely competent to make such a determination) and are told they are wrong. Marx (Groucho) comes to mind here.

The story as I understand it also raises some issues of due process and conflict of interest in the decision-making process. Again my Croatian colleague: ‘Promotions almost always happen to be decided upon by a small number of academics, usually always the same ones who control a field. It is pretty much the situation described by Duncan Kennedy in which “society is constructed around illegitimate hierarchies”.’ He adds: ‘This should not be happening.’ Apparently there is no more recourse within the Croatian academic system.

Surely legal academia in Croatia should find a solution to this problem if it does not wish to become a Europe-wide laughing stock and Dr. Radačić an international cause célèbre?

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John R Morss says

April 6, 2013

The situation that Dr Radacic finds herself in is deplorable, and the criticisms of the Croatian tertiary system are probably justified... but the practices surely arise from a sense in the elite of that system of competence and responsibility to evaluate scholarship and to exercise their capacities accordingly, just as the EJIL (like many other journals, but with more transparency than most) invites and selects contributions... I think sociologists of knowledge would detect some similarities. Just a thought!

Ralph Janik says

April 6, 2013

"Surely legal academia in Croatia should find a solution to this problem if it does not wish to become a Europe-wide laughing stock and Dr. Radačić an international cause célèbre?"
Aren't you overstating things here?

Jordan says

April 8, 2013

For a U.S. scholar, it is difficult to understand why a decision like this would be made -- so blind; so threatening to cross-area thinking, teaching, scholarship, and problem-solving; and most likely so limiting of creativity within a faculty and, perhaps, an entire legal profession. This is not the way to set up an educational process during an increasingly interdependent world! Boxed-in thinking will be the likely general result.
There should be a special section in EJIL on the future of legal education in Europe, one that is foramlly dedicated to her.

Nuwan Peiris says

April 10, 2013

The promotion committee must be absolutely sure she is competent to research in international law for an academic posting in international law. Post is not a lecturer in multi disciplinary international law.

It can be measured by a two stage test;

1. National committee needs to be appraised of the international law content in each article by IL experts

2. What the post in question exactly demands – is it a general understanding in IL, or on specific area in IL etc