Recap: Transnational Legal Feminism – Beyond Western Hegemonies of International Law and Feminist Theories

By Aishwarya Chaturvedi

Cornell Law School and London South Bank University organized global conference entitled “Transnational Legal Feminism — Beyond Western Hegemonies of International Law and Feminist Theory” on March 26, 2021.  Speakers and attendees hailed from almost every continent in the world. The theme of the conference was understanding the legacies and ramifications of the domination of western thought on feminist research and practice in the sphere of international law and feminist legal theory. 

The conference commenced with opening remarks (which can be found here) from the conference co-organizers, Ms. Farnush Ghadery, Law School, London South Bank University and Professor Sital Kalantry, Cornell Law School.  Professor Farnush explained that the theory of transnational law and feminism was a methodology for building cross border transnational feminism and not hegemony of western epistemologies. Professor Kalantry further elaborated on the concept of transnational legal feminism draws from two bodies of literature: gender studies and law scholarship. In the introductory remarks, the co-organizers pointed out that transnational legal feminism much like transnational law “de-emphasizes” the nation and recognizes that laws in one country also impact people in other countries. However, the laws need to be considered with reference to a specific context. Professor Sital expressed that for her, transnational legal feminism was different from postcolonial feminism because it focuses on “prescriptive solutions.”  

Professor Chandra Mohanty, Dean’s Professor of the Humanities, Women’s and Gender Studies, Syracuse University, presented a keynote for the conference entitled “Transnational Feminism as Insurgent Praxis.” Professor Mohanty started her presentation by explaining the term “cartographies of struggle” which was coined by her three decades ago in her book ‘Third World Women and the Politics of Feminism.’ She explained that the concept of cartographies of struggle helps us understand how power works through inter-connected histories of racial capitalism and labour flows; colonial legacies of heteronormative nation states; and transnational advocacy for social and economic justice. She emphasized that the term “transnational” does not mean global or international or opposite of national; it means here and now in a local, specific and particular context. 

Professor Mohanty elaborated on this by saying that transnational feminism involves thinking historically, comparatively and relationally and it fundamentally involves addressing the cartographies of power difference. Interestingly, she also discussed feminist geographer Cindi Katz’s notion of a counter topography to understand transnational connections which influence routine experiences of people. She pertinently pointed out that Katz explained that “not all places affected by capital global ambition are affected in the same way and not all issues matter equally everywhere.”

Professor Mohanty went on to say that a somewhat acceptance of misogynistic racial capitalism in the last decade along with the neoliberal colonisation of language and public life has led to a “neoliberal fascism” which can be explained as a culture and governance structure that brings together the “worst excesses” of capitalism with authoritarian ideals. She said governments and powerful people utilize security, mass incarceration and mass deportation to impose their control and authority and normalize violence against black, brown and indigenous bodies.  

Professor Mohanty discussed that transnational feminist frameworks challenge the national and international space by introducing the question of colonial legacies and gendered racial globalities as central to policy making. She explained that insurgent feminism requires understanding that racialised gender is essential for mapping borders, histories and movements and understanding why and how women, queer and gender nonconforming people matter.  She concluded her address by suggesting that developing transnational feminism frameworks is fundamental to envisioning solidarities and building bridges across borders.

From a call for papers, law scholars from Singapore, Canada, India, and Thailand (among other countries) were selected to present papers, which will be published in a special issue of Transnational Law Journal. The following papers were presented at the conference:

  • “Feminist Perspectives on Transnational Comfort Women Litigation” by  Cheah W.L.
  • “Nationalised subject: Rape law reform and reaction in Thailand” by Suprawee Asanasak.
  • “Exploring the Borderlands/ La Frontera of Unpaid Labour: Towards a Feminist Mestiza in Transnational Labour Law” by  Miriam Bak McKenna and Maj Grasten.
  • “Istanbul Convention: Critique of the Honor Crime Provision” by Sital Kalantry presented and Shireen Moti. 
  • “Western Hosts and Southern Ghosts” by  Siobhan Yorgun.
  •  “The #MeToo movement’s manifestation in Croatia” by Josipa Šaric.
  • “Beyond International Human Rights Law Discourse – The Power of Music and Song in Contextualised Struggles for Gender Equality” by Ms. Farnush Ghadery.

Go On! 5th CELI Peace Talk Seminar: International Law & International Relations

Go On! makes note of interesting conferences, lectures, and similar events.

► The Centre for European Law and Internationalisation (CELI) announced open registration for the 5th CELI Peace Talk seminar on ‘International Law & International Relations: Power and Global Inequality’ which will be held on 22 April 22, 2021. For more information and registration, please click here.


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Go On! “Diversity in aid of legitimacy of international arbitration?”

Go On! makes note of interesting conferences, lectures, and similar events.

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The Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy of the Graduate Institute, Geneva (IHEID) announced open registration for Diversity in aid of legitimacy of international arbitration?, which will be held on April 26, 2021 at 12:30 PM EST (6:30pm CEST).

The SNF-funded project “Diversity on the International Bench: Building Legitimacy for International Courts and Tribunals”, led by Professors Neus Torbisco-Casals and Andrew Clapham (Graduate Institute), has launched a monthly public lecture series on “Women’s Voices in the International Judiciary”. The series aims to reflect on the lack of diversity in the international judiciary —especially gender diversity—, which raises concerns not just in terms of descriptive representation and symbolic self-identification, but also regarding unconscious bias and systemic privileging of specific ideologies or positions in the process of adjudication.

The lectures will run from March 2021 until Spring 2022. The third lecture will feature Professor Gabrielle Kaufmann-Kohler, who will deliver a presentation titled “Diversity in aid of legitimacy of international arbitration?”.

The lectures are open to the broader public, but registration is required for attendance. Registration is available here. For more information on our project and events, click here.

Go On! Nuremberg Academy Event

Go On! makes note of interesting conferences, lectures, and similar events.

International Nuremberg Principles Academy: International Nuremberg  Principles Academy

►  The International Nuremberg Principles Academy and the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg announced open registration for the upcoming conference entitled, Prohibition, Prosecution and Prevention of Enforced Disappearances, which will be held on online on May 7-8, 2021. The conference will consist of a series of sessions in Zoom webinar format to bring together communities virtually to explore possible responses to enforced disappearances.

►  Please register by sending an e-mail with your name, institutional affiliation and e-mail address to humanrights-centre@fau.de with the subject line “Registration for Conference”. Click here for more details.

Go on! ABILA International Law Weekend: Call for Panel Proposals

Go On! makes note of interesting conferences, lectures, and similar events.

ABILA - American Branch of the International Law Association

► The American Branch of the International Law Association (ABILA) is now receiving panel proposals for its annual International Law Weekend (ILW), to be held October 28-30, 2021. The deadline to submit a proposal is May 30, 2021.

► The ILW Organizing Committee (Committee) invites panel proposals to be submitted online by May 30, 2021. Please note that proposals will only be accepted through the online ILW Panel Proposal Submission Form. For questions regarding ILW 2021, please contact: ilw@ila-americanbranch.org. For more information, please click here.

Write On! Call for Papers 6th Annual TAU Workshop for Junior Scholars in Law

Tel Aviv University - Find Your LL.M.

This installment of Write On!, our periodic compilation of calls for papers, includes calls to present at the Annual TAU Workshop, as follows:


► The Tel Aviv University (TAU) Buchmann Faculty of Law is pleased to invite submissions to its sixth junior legal scholar workshop., to be held November 14-16, 2021, at at the TAU Faculty of Law. The theme is “Legal Change in Revolutionary Times.” Deadline is June 1st ,2021.


► The workshop provides junior scholars with the opportunity to present and discuss their work, receive meaningful feedback from faculty members and peers, and actively participate in an international community of junior legal scholars.  For more information on the workshop and details of the call for papers, click here.

On the Job! Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Officer (Firearms Control Expert)

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime is seeking a firearms control expert (P3).

This position is located in the Implementation Support Section (ISS) of the Organized Crime and Illicit Trafficking Branch (OCB), Division for Treaty Affairs (DTA) of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Vienna. The incumbent will work under the direct supervision of the Senior Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Officer, heading the Global Firearms Programme (GFP).

The deadline for this position is May 6, 2021. For more information, click here.

Go On! International Nuremberg Principles Academy: Film Screening ‘Peace Through Justice’

The International Nuremberg Principles Academy is pleased to announce a global screening of the documentary “Peace Through Justice – The Legacy of Thomas Buergenthal” on Judge Thomas Buergenthal’s life and legacy, followed by a live conversation between Judge Thomas Buergenthal and Deputy Director Dr. Viviane Dittrich.

The documentary by Ilona Kalmbach and Sabine Jainski presents the life and legacy of Judge Thomas Buergenthal, Honorary President of the Advisory Council of the International Nuremberg Principles Academy. In the live conversation following the film screening Judge Buergenthal will address his commitment to seeking accountability without revenge as well as current challenges in the field and will be open to questions from the audience.

The live screening is on April 13, 2021 at 5:00PM CEST. For more information and to register for the screening, click here.

Time to Reconsider the Use of Sanctions

This is a translation of an Opinion Piece published by my colleague Benedicte Bull,  Professor of Political Science, Centre for Development and Environment, University of Oslo, Norway https://www.sum.uio.no/english/people/aca/bbull/ (the original was published in Norwegian in Dagsavisen on March 30th)

The sanctions against Venezuela have worsened the economic crisis, contributed to consolidating Nicolás Maduro’s power, and deepened the criminalization of the economy.  This does not mean that all sanctions are wrong.  However, now that Biden’s general approach to sanctions seems to be rather similar to that of Trump,  there is a need to review what sanctions can and cannot accomplish.

Donald Trump set wild records regarding the amount of new sanction-actions issued against other countries- 3.900 total.  No president before him issued over 700.

Thus far, there is little that indicates that Joe Biden will be less eager to apply sanctions.  Furthermore, the EU, Russia, and China have recently ramped up the use of sanctions- often in response to the United States.

Sanctions were originally launched as a peaceful foreign policy tool that could reduce the use of military force. However, the effects and effectiveness of sanctions were criticized already in the late 1960s. Since then, experiences have been addressed in a substantial literature, drawing quite clear conclusions about the  consequences of use of sanctions . The developments in Venezuela illustrate many of those conclusions and were therefore easy to predict:

First, it is important to differentiate between individual sanctions against persons in positions of power and sanctions that block financial transactions or trade between countries or particular sectors.  The first sanctions against persons connected to the government in Venezuela were issued by the United States in 2011 and after 2014 they were directed against persons linked to human rights abuses and the narcotics trade.  The EU followed suit in 2017.

Such sanctions are being called for:  for example, individuals in the regimes in Nicaragua and Myanmar.  Individual sanctions have impact on the economy but can in some cases help to highlight the human rights situation. In Venezuela, however, the human rights situation has become dramatically worse over the last few year, with an explosion of extra-judicial executions and imprisonment of opposition actors.  

Second, substantive sanctions worsen economic crises. The first substantive sanctions against Venezuela were issued in 2017. They prevented the nation from taking on new loans in the international market.  In 2019, the oil sanctions prevented Venezuela from exporting oil- which amounted to 95 per cent of the country’s export income.  In November 2020, Trump halted access to diesel which is used in the transport of goods, including food, through ending the exception from sanctions for crude-for-diesel swaps

When the sanctions were applied, Venezuela was already deep in an economic crisis, and it is difficult to disentangle the effect of sanctions from the ongoing crisis-dynamics. Venezuela’s economy had already shrunk over 30 per cent since 2013, inflation was about to reach 1000 per cent per year, the amount of people living in poverty had doubled since 2014 reaching over 80 per cent of the population, imports had been reduced to one sixth of the rate in 2013, and the lack of goods was harrowing. Nevertheless, there is increasing evidence that  sanctions worsened the situation. Today,  Venezuela’s economy has shrunk 65 percent, and there is an unfolding humanitarian crisis  in the resource-rich land, accelerated by particularly the oil-sanctions.

Third, sanctions rarely lead to regime change, nor do they manage to shift authoritarian regimes to democratic ones. More often, sanctions tend to consolidate the power of authoritarian leaders and worsen freedom of expression and association. The reasons are that authoritarian leaders can use sanctions as an «external enemy» and justify their own attacks. During the past few years, Venezuela has evolved from being a hybrid regime to a full authoritarian regime. Sanctions have also affected the business community that has been among the strongest regime-opponents, and contributed to  new divisions in the opposition

Fourth: Sanctions contribute to new inequality and criminalization of the economy.  In order to evade the sanctions,Nicolás Maduro enacted a type of perverse neo-liberalization: deregulation of prices and currency have rendered the dollar the only viable currency, a privatization program based in the so-called «anti-blockade law»,  a toll-exception in order to encourage direct private import which could violate the prohibition of trade with the state, and decentralization of control in various sectors- leaving them to criminal actors. The result is the growth of a new elite with access to dollars and a deep division with the poor majority. Another consequence is the strengthening of a variety of criminal activities, including illegal mining resulting in catastrophic impact on the environment within the vulnerable Venezuelan Amazon.

Fifth: Sanctions often lead to new alliances between “sanction-busters”. In the case of Venezuela, they have  strengthened the alliance with other countries subject to sanctions, including Russia, Syria, and Iran.  The relationship to Russia was established during the United States application of a weapons embargo against Venezuela in 2006. This converted Venezuela into one of Russia’s best importers of weapons. In later years, the two countries have cooperated on developing the cryptocurrency, which is increasingly utilized to avoid sanctions. 

Let there be no doubt, Venezuela’s catastrophe cannot be blamed on the sanctions.  Neither is there any reason to believe that Maduro would have become a devote democrat or prioritized welfare and human rights in the absence of sanctions. Yet, sanctions have worsened the lives of most people without being able to meet the goals that were set for them,

If the world continues down the wrong path of sanctions, it will not only worsen humanitarian crises, but also worsen the environment for international cooperation and strengthen criminal networks.  It is essential to take a critical look at what sanctions can do and not do, and not only let decisions of imposing them be based on whether they seem justified or not.  


Write On! Call for Papers on the United Nations War Crimes Commission

Dr. Amina Adanan of Maynooth University Law Department is organizing two online events this year, as part of her project on the United Nations War Crimes Commission (UNWCC) funded by the Royal Irish Academy. The aim of the project is to bring together UNWCC scholars from all over the world in an international collaborative network.

The UNWCC, which operated from 1943-48, was a UN agency that supported localized prosecutions of international crimes committed during the Second World War. The work of the UNWCC gives an insight into substantive and procedural international criminal law in the post war period. Since 2017, the UNWCC Archives have been made available to the public online. However, the UNWCC and its importance to modern day international criminal law remains overlooked and under explored.

The first of these virtual events is a workshop on May 28, 2021. The online workshop is an opportunity for UNWCC scholars to present on any aspect of their UNWCC research and receive feedback on their work from the other experts and attendees in a constructive environment. Presentations will be 10-15 mins and the event will include keynote lectures by leading scholars on the UNWCC. 

Submissions should be composed of a single pdf or Word doc file, and should include: the applicant’s name and institutional affiliation, an abstract (max. 300 words), key words (max. 5), and ‘UNWCC workshop’ in the email subject line.

Submissions should be emailed to amina.adanan@mu.ie by April 20, 2021. Please click here for more information.