Introducing OLYMPE’s first collective book: “Féminisme(s) et droit international” (2016)


A few months ago, OLYMPE, the network for francophone feminist studies in international law and relations, published its first collective opus. Entitled Féminisme(s) et droit international. Études du réseau Olympe (Éd. de la Société de Législation Comparée), this volume brings together, under the co-direction of Emmanuelle Tourme Jouannet, Laurence Burgorgue-Larsen, Horatia Muir Watt and Hélène Ruiz Fabri, 14 chapters providing a valuable first overview of the state of feminist research in international law and international relations in French. All in all, a great addition to the critical canon of international law in French. As an important side note, OLYMPE is already preparing a call for a second volume on LGBTQIA/Queer approaches to international law. Said call should be issued in a few issues; stay tuned!

To order the book…

For the non-French speakers and the impatient readers, here follows a summary of the book. Rather eclectic in their focus, its 14 chapters revolve around a historical, a theoretical and a thematic perspective and are preceded by a critical introduction of the painting chosen as a cover for the book (Bérénice K. Schramm, “(Re)voir Phryné devant l’aréopage de Jean-Léon Gérôme (1861)”) and followed by an epilog powerfully recounting from a feminist perspective the experience of a refugee law officer on duty and in office, shedding light on the problematic contradictions that humanitarianism and international law, as male dominated discursive and physical spaces, produce for women in particular (Anne Charlotte Martineau, “Odysée d’une toubabou”).

For those interested in historical developments, the book includes four chapters providing original accounts onf the absence and presence of women as objects, subjects and practitioners of the discipline in the past.
Charalambos Apostolodis, “Le marxisme et la cause féminine” – While the official Marxist dogma, and the texts it is build upon do not address the question of women’s oppression per se, it has undoubtedly contributed to the struggle for their emancipation. The German author’s writings do not showcase any genuine exploration of the origin of what some Marxist women have called “women’s enslavement”. Creative analysis of some of his less known texts regarding human alienation could however lead to a renewal of Marxist feminisms.
Martin Gallié and Maxine Visotzky-Charlebois, “Le droit des femmes tel qu’il a été enseigné par les Pères fondateurs du droit international public et leurs héritiers. Notes de lecture sur les ouvrages et les manuels du XVIe au XXIe siècle” – Examining international law seminal texts and textbooks published in the past five hundred years, this chapter seeks to understand the place of women in the discipline’s foundational writings. While old texts tend to rely on a categorization and hierarchy-ridden view of the relationship between men and women, “modern” texts only focus on discriminations and often displace them outside of the Global North. All in all, while critical approaches to international law today insist on the importance of the women/gender question, they however fail to address it outside of the realms of sexual violence or economic inequalities, missing the bigger question of gender domination.
Dominique Gaurier, “Quelle place faite aux femmes dans l’ordre international de l’Antiquité et du début de l’époque moderne” –  Women are often more absent from historiographies than histories themselves. Present in politics as well as in a number of seminal texts of international law although with a rather limited agency, women have played various roles in the international order in Europe, from the Antiquity to the start of the XXth century. In addition to providing a much needed account of their presence in writings by men, the chapter focuses on 4 specific European feminist figures and their achievements over the past 250 years: Olympe de Gouges, the Suffragettes, Louise Michel and Florence Nightingale.
Dzovinar Kévonian, “L’histoire des femmes juristes en France jusqu’aux années 1960:état des lieux et sources de recherche” – International lawyers are often first domestic lawyers by training. The low representation of women in the academic and professional field of international law, especially in certain niches, therefore needs to be addressed at the national level. This is what this chapter contributes to as it provides an original historiographical and sociological account of women’s growing participation in the legal academe in France and through international networks before the 1960s, where legal professions underwent a heavy feminization.

As to theoretical and philosophical developments, four other chapters do an important work in offering unique insights about the relationships between feminist and critical approaches to international law, and between international law and international relations through the lens of gender.
Rémi Bachand, “Les apports de la théorie féministe du positionnement dans une théorie (critique) du droit (international)” – Applied jointly to international law, the standpoint and indeterminacy theories suggest a new approach of the discipline, one that would distance itself from doctrinal and jurisprudential sources while focusing on the experience on the ground, in other words, enquiring how international law transforms, reproduces and maintains the structures of domination in each of the affected societies. Based on a genuine political critique, this epistemological and theoretical revolution will perhaps bring about new and extra-, if not counter-legal emancipation strategies.
Anne-Marie D’Aoust and Anne Saris, “Femmes, genre et sécurité en relations internationales et en droit international: un dialogue en construction” – Introduced as a “bricolage” rather than a disciplinary assemblage, this text opens up an important conversation between international law and international relations on the interrelation of the notions and experiences of women, gender and security at the global level. Fed with feminist curiosity, the text provides a number of startling illustrations of the problems that the status quo favoring the current power structures produces and maintains.
Frédéric Mégret, “Féminisme et droit international: le « féminisme de gouvernance» à l’épreuve du « féminisme critique »” – Taking stocks of the relative successes of feminist approaches to international law in the past two decades, leading to the emergence of what is now called “governance feminism”, this chapter makes a sophisticated assessment of the contributions of newer waves of feminism offering a much needed critique of the limitations of the former. Beyond the impact that governance and critical feminist approaches to international law have had on each other and on the discipline, this chapter calls for additional structural (gendered) bias analysis of international law in addition to highlighting the need for systematic rehabilitation of women’s agency, promoting queer and postcolonial approaches to international law. More than power positions, transnational and transcritical alliances are the future of feminism in international law.
Emmanuelle Tourme Jouannet, “Les différentes étapes pour la reconnaissance des droits des femmes. Droits des femmes et droit international de la reconnaissance” – This chapter presents a genealogy of the recognition of women’s rights in international law. Building on the idea of a post-Cold War paradigmatic shift in the making of the discipline, the call for the end of the Other’s othering brought about its recognition and has been applied since then to any minority in need, women included. Going beyond a pro-equality/anti-discrimination agenda, current trends in this new international law of recognition focus on gender as a complex and multifaceted notion and demand a revision of the masculine discourse of international law.

Last but not least of the readers’ interest, the book includes six chapters devoted to thematic and/or transversal feminist and/or gender-based analysis of specific case law or substantial or regional fields of international law and international relations.
Orianne-Jill Aoust, “Droits des femmes et sphère privée en Afrique: le constat d’une défaillance des instruments régionaux africains” – Regional legal instruments on the African continent have unfortunately failed to acknowledge and promote the important role that women play in the private sphere, reproducing the limited masculine vision of international human rights and curtailing the potential effectivity of the very women’s rights they simultaneously recognize. Regional institutions need to consider appropriate (and more political) ways to offer genuine recognition of African women’s role in the private and public spheres in order to really contribute to a change in gender relations on the Continent.
Laurence Burgogue-Larsen, “La lutte contre la « violence de genre » dans le système interaméricain de protection des droits de l’homme. Décodage d’une évolution politique et juridique d’envergure” – South American states and organizations have historically pioneered important developments in international law, whether specific to the region or with a universal impact. This is most evident in the domain of gender-based violence where, after a period of questionable inaction on the part of the regional human rights organisms, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has in the past decade shown its determination in addressing the numerous stereotypes feeding gender-based violence on the ground, becoming one of the jurisdictional role model in the field.
Stéphanie Hennette-Vauchez and Diane Roman, “Du sexe au genre : le corps des femmes en droit international” – Centering on the female body, this chapter reviews the various ways in which the masculine veil has been overcome in international law after the lift of the state-ridden one, through in particular the field of human rights. While gender mainstreaming has undoubtedly changed international law, it is only with certain limitations, that of a biased focus on gender as sexuality or sexual orientation and that of a troublesome negligence of gender as a site of transversal unequal social relationships and stereotype-based discrimination. International law therefore needs more imagination to bring about real equality in the near future.
Anne Lagerwall, “La prostitution, le port du voile et l’avortement devant la Cour européenne des droits de l’homme: une affaire de femmes?” – Reviewing the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights in claims brought forward by women in cases of prostitution, abortion and the religious veil, this chapter shows that the European Convention on Human Rights has certainly contributed to promote equality between men and women while, reminiscent of its liberal, rational and masculine standpoint, failing to address the more pressing and systematic issue of gender oppression. As female bodies remain a legal battleground, they convincingly contribute to shedding light on the limitations of international law from a feminist perspective.
Isabelle Masson, “(Re)penser les relations constitutives de la gouvernance néo- libérale: quelques pistes de réflexion féministes pour les relations internationales et le droit international” – Dominant approaches to neoliberal governance rest upon on a number of dichotomies, of which production/reproduction (and international law/international relations) are epitomes. Reified through their non-problematized usage, they contribute to the mystification and naturalization of class, gender and race power relations. Feminist analysis is therefore essential to grasp the intensity and the contradictions of these oppressive discourses in that it exposes the biases on which they are built: for example, social reproduction has in the past decades undergone a fundamental reconfiguration based on the renewal of gendered and racialized discourses, illustrating the pervasiveness and oppressive nature of globalization as a mode of governance.
Anne-Sophie Tabau, “Féminismes et droit international de l’environnement” – Feminist approaches to international environmental law provide both a critique and a contribution to the discipline. As to the critical perspective, feminist approaches to environment promote an ecofeminist theory of care based on the experience on the ground while shedding light on the numerous silences and potentialities of international law in this domain. On this basis, feminist thinkers have pushed for the integration in various legal instruments of gender-oriented dispositions or the use of a transversal gendered perspective while drafting them. Environmental justice would not be complete if gender is not a real focus: designing efficient solutions to environmental issues also rest upon questions of gender equality.

To contribute to its diffusion, please do communicate about this book around you or recommend its purchase to your university or research center’s library. Knowledge production is also a lot about making scientific resources available in other languages.


One thought on “Introducing OLYMPE’s first collective book: “Féminisme(s) et droit international” (2016)

  1. Pingback: OLYMPE: Call for Contributions on “Queering International Law” « IntLawGrrls

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