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The Politics of International Law and the Perils and Promises of Interdisciplinarity

  • TANJA E. AALBERTS

Extract

In the previous editorial, Larissa van den Herik and Jean d'Aspremont referred to LJIL's ‘special plural identity’. On the one hand, this plurality shows in its table of contents; on the other hand, the plural identity is equally – if not even more – treasured in terms of appreciating the plurality of voices within the legal discipline, as the editors-in-chief also highlight. Diversity and heterogeneity are an asset for academic debate, and LJIL as such seeks to provide a forum for scholars from different ‘paradigms’. The appreciation of diversity and plurality is also reflected in the interest of LJIL to look beyond the confines of the legal discipline itself and engage with external perspectives to foster discussions about international law. It is in light of this open-mindedness and the wish to reach out to non-legal audiences, and to the international relations community in particular, that I was invited to join the LJIL team some years ago. Whereas there is a growing audience of IR scholars genuinely interested in (theorizing) international law, LJIL is not very well known as a journal with that profile for its International Legal Theory section. As a leading scholar in IR once remarked: ‘LJIL is the best kept secret in IR’. So when the request came for me to write an editorial, it seemed only apt to reflect upon some of the perils and promises of interdisciplinarity from my experience as an IR scholar within the LJIL editorial board.

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References

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1 d'Aspremont, J. and van den Herik, L., ‘The Public Good of Academic Publishing in International Law’, (2013) 26 LJIL 1.

2 MA International Relations theory, PhD Political Science. I did several courses in law, have always been working on or with law, have co-authored with lawyers, have published in law journals, and have recently joined a law faculty, but I never finished or started a law degree.

3 Alexander Wendt, in his recommendation letter for the submission of LJIL to the Social Sciences Citation Index.

4 H. J. Morgenthau, Politics among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace (1985), at 13.

5 Special issue in 54 International Organization 401 (2000).

6 Corfu Channel Case (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland v. People's Republic of Albania), Judgment of 9 April 1949, ICJ Rep, at 41–2 (Individual Opinion Judge Alvarez).

7 Abbott, K. W., ‘Modern International Relations Theory: A Prospectus’, (1989) 14 YJIL 335. There is no room here to engage with the vast literature on IL/IR scholarship that has emerged since. A good starting point is the discussion of the state of the art in Beck, R. J., ‘International Law and International Relations scholarship’, in Amstrong, D. (ed), Routledge Handbook of International Law (2009).

8 Keohane, R. O., ‘International Relations and International Law: Two Optics’, (1997) 38 HILJ 487.

9 Klabbers, J., ‘The Bridge Crack'd: A Critical Look at Interdisciplinary Relations’, (2009) 23 International Relations 119, at 120. See also Koskenniemi's reference to the liberal institutionalist call for interdisciplinarity as an American crusade (M. Koskenniemi, Gentle Civilizer of Nations (2004), at 483–4). While this tendency to export IR concepts characterizes many interdisciplinary projects in international law, in its relation to other disciplines IR is actually more often accused of merely importing theories and concepts (Long, D., ‘Interdisciplinarity and International Relations’, in Aalto, P., Harle, V., and Moisio, S. (eds.), International Studies: Interdisciplinary Approaches (2011), at 61).

10 Abbott, supra note 7, at 334.

11 T. S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1970), at 103, 93. While Kuhn was writing about scientific progress in natural sciences, the term ‘paradigm’ and its link between substance and science can serve as a heuristic tool to illuminate the (im)possibilities of interdisciplinarity as opposed to disciplinary research.

12 Foucault, M., ‘Truth and Power’, in Gordon, C. (ed.), Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972–1977 (1980).

13 Keohane, R. O., ‘International Institutions: Two Approaches’, 32 International Studies Quarterly 379.

14 Beck, supra note 7, at 15.

15 S. Burchill and Linklater, A., ‘Introduction’, in Burchill, S.et al. (eds.), Theories of International Relations (2009), at 11–2.

16 Klabbers, supra note 9.

17 Kennedy, D., ‘The Disciplines of International Law and Policy’ (1999) 12 LJIL 9.

18 For a different standpoint about language communities, see d'Aspremont, J., ‘Editorial: Wording in International Law’, (2012) 25 LJIL 575.

19 Kuhn, supra note 11, at 201–2.

20 T. S. Kuhn, The Essential Tension (1977), at xii. While this could be read as a search for the true meaning of the text as derived from its wording, it rather highlights how reading is interpretation and a temporal and communal experience, as Stanley Fish also teaches us (S. Fish, Is There a Text in This Class? The Authority of Interpretive Communities (1980)). His identification of the ‘informed reader’, however, is dependent upon her capacity as a competent speaker of the language, which seems to ignore the temporal experience of translation as part of the reader's subjectivity that Kuhn hints at.

21 Aalberts, T. E. and van Munster, R., ‘From Wendt to Kuhn: Reviving the “Third Debate” in International Relations’, (2008) 45 International Politics 720.

22 OECD, Interdisciplinarity: Problems of Teaching and Research in Universities (1972), at 285.

23 Kennedy, supra note 17, at 13.

24 See for instance Bederman, D. J., ‘What's Wrong with International Law Scholarship? I Hate International Law Scholarship (sort of)’, (2000) 1 CJIL 75; Klabbers, J., ‘The Relative Autonomy of International Law or the Forgotten Politics of Interdisciplinarity’, (2005) 1 JILIR 35.

25 OECD, Interdisciplinarity: Problems of Teaching and Research in Universities (1972), cited by Miller, R. C., ‘Interdisciplinarity: Its Meaning and Consequences’, in Denemark, R. A. (ed.), The International Studies Encyclopedia. Blackwell Reference Online (2010).

26 See Lapid, Y., ‘Through Dialogue to Engaged Pluralism: The Unfinished Business of the Third Debate’, (2003) 5 International Studies Review 128; Kratochwil, F., ‘The Monologue of “Science”’, 5 International Studies Review 124; R. Sil and P. J. Katzenstein, Beyond Paradigms: Analytical Eclecticism in the Study of World Politics (2010).

* Transnational Legal Studies, VU University, Amsterdam []. My thinking on interdisciplinarity has been greatly influenced by discussions and long-term interdisciplinary co-operation with Thomas Gammeltoft-Hansen and Wouter Werner, including co-authored papers on this subject (T. E. Aalberts and W. G. Werner, ‘Discipline, Recht en Politiek en de werking van soevereiniteit’, (2009) 38 Vrede en Veiligheid 164; T. E. Aalberts and T. Gammeltoft-Hansen, ‘International Law and International Relations: Should We Agree Just to Date?’, paper presented at the COST Action IS1003 workshop, ‘Rezoning the International?’ Krakow, 20–2 September 2012). I would like to thank Jean d'Aspremont, Yannick Radi, and Ingo Venzke for their helpful comments on an earlier draft of this article.

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