A growing community of scholars is bringing international law into conversation with sociological research and theory. Major developments over the past years have come from studies across all subfields of international law, from human rights and international criminal law, to international economic law, private international law, or to litigation and arbitration. This has not only been a one-way street: the intersection of sociology with international law has also led to changes in sociological theory and research, and grappling with the role of law and legal systems has become increasingly central to sociological studies of globalization. Now in its second year, this workshop seeks to build a “working group” community of scholars at the intersection of these two fields, broadly understood, to present innovative original contributions and to build opportunities for community and collaboration.
While substantive areas, theoretical questions, and methodological approaches are open, for 2015 we particularly welcome contributions that provide insight on various sociological perspectives on actors, institutions, and/or practices in international law. This might include:
(1) The actors of international law: who does the work of international law and what socio-cultural factors affect their involvement in the making, interpretation and implementation of international law? How norms, social roles, identities and collective memories influence the real life of international law? What national careers feed in to international legal work, and how does international law reflect the backgrounds and professional training of these actors? What is the array of expertise on which international law relies, and in what sense is international law “co-produced” across different forms of knowledge and expertise? What are the educational and social patterns to engage in international legal work? How does studying actors provide us with insight into how different international legal fields are constituted, the contours of these fields interact with various socio-cultural features of the particular social groups?
(2) The institutions of international law: How can we begin to bridge analyses of institutions, both formal and informal, with international law? How does organizational culture within international organizations or their identity have an effect on law? What is the relationship between international law and other social institutions, such as markets? Are there institutions in international law that can “nudge” individuals into making better decisions? If the classic insight of economic sociology is that markets and law are mutually constituted, how might this insight be deployed, illustrated and developed in the context of contemporary international economic law? What work does thinking of international law as an “institution” do for our analyses? How does international law as an institution affect behaviour, if at all? What other institutions, international or national, are at play to mediate international law ?
(3) The practices of international law: What practices or forms of knowledge are particularly salient in different international legal fields? If there are communities or networks of practice in international law, what are the key practices to study? To what extent are these legal practices, or are they drawn from diplomacy, from science, or from other fields? How do practitioners conceive of their work, how do they assess value, and how do they develop practices to monitor their work? What cultural repertoires inform these practices, and give them meaning? To what extent and in what ways are professional practices in fields of international law or governance constituted and contested at the micro-level of day to day interaction, through the routine and mundane work of rulership in the "background"? What frameworks of knowledge circulate in and around institutions of international governance? By what complex set of practices are such frameworks produced, contested, and institutionally embedded? What are the sociotechnical forms in which they are constituted? In what senses is law a ‘knowledge practice’, and what might be the implications of conceiving legal practices in this mode? Work that draws inspiration from the concepts, questions and methodologies of science and technology studies, the sociology of knowledge, and social studies of science may be of particular promise in investigating such questions.
(4) Constructivist Approaches to International Law: Constructivist approaches to international law continue to gain traction. Can we access the success or limits of constructivist approaches to international law? Has the constructivist turn gained attention in some sub-areas of inquiry more so than others? How successful is constructivism in predicting state behaviour when it comes to international law in particular, and are there particular legal fields for which constructivist approaches are more or less fruitful? Work that reflects on the emergence of constructivist approaches, and that explains the political, economic, normative, and professional conditions under which constructivist approaches have emerged, and that consider ‘next steps’ and potential future agendas for constructivist research in international law, may be promising avenues of inquiry.
The workshop will take place at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs, on 9-10 October 2015. Abstracts of no more than 300 words should be sent to Sungjoon Cho at , by 1 April 2015, and must include the author’s name, affiliation, and full contact information. Decisions regarding inclusion in the workshop program will be sent by 15 May, 2015. Those presenting will be expected to provide short discussion papers (3,000-4,000 words) by —15 September, 2015.
We regret that we are unable to cover participants' travel and accommodation expenses. Limited assistance might be available for junior scholars who are unable to secure funding from other sources.