Reflections on ‘The Gendered Imaginaries of Crisis in International Law’ Agora @ the 2016 ESIL Annual Conference, Riga, Latvia

With many thanks to Emily Jones, currently a PhD researcher at SOAS, University of London, who authored this reflection and, along with IntLawgrrls Gina Heathcote, Loveday Hodson, and Bérénice Schramm, as well as Troy Lavers, organized the Gendered Imaginaries of Crisis Agora on behalf of the Feminism and International Law Interest Group of the European Society of International Law.

esil-2016On Friday 9th September, the Feminism and International Law Interest Group of the European Society of International Law (ESIL) held an agora entitled ‘The Gendered Imaginaries of Crisis in International Law.’ The agora session was initially inspired by Hilary Charlesworth’s provocative statement that ‘international lawyers revel in a good crisis. A crisis provides a focus for the development of the discipline and it also allows international lawyers the sense that their work is of immediate, intense relevance.’ In this vein, the agora aimed to disrupt mainstream interpretations and perspectives on crisis as well as remind attendees of the various ways in which gender is implicated in the narratives of crisis. (Agora participants pictured above, from left to right, Bérénice Schramm (chair), Marion Blondel, Dianne Otto, and Jaya Ramji-Nogales; Zeynep Kivilcim is pictured in the Skype screen at the top.)

The agora was bilingual (in both French and English). This bilingualism not only helped to disrupt the increasing dominance of the English language at ESIL but also allowed for a wider array of feminist perspectives to be considered.

The panel began with an intervention by IntLawGrrl Bérénice K. Schramm, the Agora Chair. Bérénice began with a reminder of the many ways in which crisis is utilised globally, not only by international lawyers to revel in but also as a moment for change and resistance, thus disrupting mainstream international legal views of crisis. She also highlighted the many elements of crisis which go unseen, including the sounds and images of crisis, showing pictures of women in Rojava engaging in radical democratic work and drawing on the work of German art collective Maiden Monsters to highlight both the existence of counter images to crises and sounds of crisis and the corollary fact that neoliberalism, from a feminist perspective, is, itself, a crisis.

Bérénice, in her introduction, also read an important statement regarding Turkey. One of the panellists, Zeynep Kivilcim, sadly, was unable to attend the agora in person and was forced to intervene via Skype. This was due to the current political situation in her country and the crack down by the government on academics and academic freedom. As a signatory to the ‘Academics for Peace’ petition‘Academics for Peace’ petition, Zeynep risks being interrogated daily. Bérénice reminded the agora participants of the terrible ongoing situation in Turkey and the need to remember the ways in which crises affect academic work and freedom.

The first paper presented was by Dianne Otto and was entitled ‘Feminist Aspirations and Crisis Law: Navigating Uncomfortable Convergences and New Opportunities.’ Dianne noted the normalisation of crisis in international discourse and the ways in which this spreading atmosphere of crisis has allowed for the expansion of emergency laws and rule by experts and technocrats who often favour neoliberal ends. Her paper went on to highlight the ways in which ‘gender panics’ are also caught up in international discourses on crisis, noting, for example, how the trafficking movement and the panic over preventing sex trafficking has been used, not only to deny women agency and the right to make their own sexual and economic decisions, but also to ignore the wider, structural issues which surround trafficking, including poverty and exploitative labour conditions (noting how the focus on trafficking also works to ignore other migrants). Continue reading

Call for Papers: European Society of International Law 10th Anniversary Conference

From the European Society of International Law comes this invitation and call for papers:

In the 1990s an intense debate on feminism and international law started to permeate journals and learned societies. Core concepts of international law were critiqued and de-constructed from a feminist perspective. Most recently, the ILA re-established a committee on ‘Feminism and International Law’ in 2010 focusing on the economic empowerment of women and the possible contribution of international law. Other initiatives, like the journal ‘Feminist Legal Studies’, continue; others were recently revived, such as the ‘IntLawGrrls’ blog. [Editor’s note: Hey, that’s us!]

Feminist methodological approaches to international law include the detection of silences in the law and the question of how to respond to the many (cultural, linguistic, religious, ethnic, economic) differences among women. Feminist international lawyers have added to the understanding of international law in various ways, e.g. through a feminist perspective on international criminal law and on women in armed conflicts.

These issues will be discussed in this agora, including questions such as: What is the current status of the debate? Is there still momentum in international law and feminism? What are the fields where international law and feminism might best contribute to the development of international law?

2014 marks the tenth anniversary of the European Society of International Law and, as an ESIL member, you are cordially invited to participate in the ESIL 10th Anniversary Conference hosted by the University of Vienna and organised by its Law School’s Section for International Law and International Relations. Please consider participating by submitting an abstract for one of the agorae. Younger scholars are also welcome to submit a poster presentation.

The conference will take place at the start of the next academic year, on 4- 6 September 2014, and it will be a special occasion to look back at the development of the Society since its inaugural conference in Florence back in 2004 as well as to look forward to the decades ahead and the ways members would like international law to evolve and the ways they would like the Society to reflect those changes. As at previous ESIL events, the programme will include plenary sessions and fora featuring invited speakers as well as agorae designed to share cutting-edge research in specific areas of international law and to stimulate debate. All agora speakers will be selected on the basis of abstracts submitted in response to the Call for Papers. For the first time at an ESIL conference, we also welcome submissions for poster presentations.

The conference will explore the interplay between international law and other fields of law and between international law and other disciplines and we would therefore ask you to extend the invitation not only to other international lawyers but also to colleagues in other disciplines who might be interested in exploring the boundaries of international law and the bridges to other fields of law and indeed to other disciplines. Our professional and intellectual development requires us to explore interdisciplinary approaches.

It is our pleasure to invite you and your colleagues to respond to the Call for Papers ( in English /in French)  and the Call for Posters (in English /in French).

Whether or not you decide to respond to these Calls, please make a note of the date of the 2014 conference. Information about the final programme and details of how to register for the event will be regularly updated on the ESIL website and on the Vienna conference website in the months ahead.