Amsterdam Center for International Law

Contingency in the Course of International Law: How International Law Could Have Been

14June2018 16June2018


This workshop will ask a question that is deceptive in its simplicity: How might international law have been otherwise?



We want to question the present state of international law by challenging its pretence to necessity and by better understanding the forces that have shaped it. Put simply with Robert Musil: "If there is a sense of reality, there must also be a sense of possibility.”  The overarching aim will be to expose the contingencies of international law’s development by inquiring into international law’s past. Such inquiries may be of systematic purport – asking, for example, how a different conception of the sources of international law could have emerged. Or they may focus on specific areas of the law, asking questions like whether the idea of state crimes could have taken hold or whether the NIEO could have achieved greater success. International law’s past is almost certainly ripe with possibilities that we have forgotten. The workshop will seek to reveal and remember them.


The workshop will be held from 14-16 June 2018 at the University of Amsterdam. It is organized within the Faculty of Law’s Research Priority Area ‘Law and Justice Across Borders’ by the Amsterdam Center for International Law (ACIL). The workshop will bring together approximately 30 participants from Thursday afternoon to Saturday morning and will feature an opening address by Fleur Johns (UNSW) and a closing address by Samuel Moyn (Yale). Participants will be expected to circulate extended outlines of their contributions prior to the workshop; reworked contributions will be due a few months after the workshop for publication with a leading academic press. (OUP has affirmed their strong interest.) The workshop is organized by Ingo Venzke and Kevin Jon Heller (UvA).


Limited space is available for additional attendees. To register, please send an email to

Participation is free of charge.


Faculty of Law

  • Roeterseilandcampus - building A

    Nieuwe Achtergracht 166 | 1018 WV Amsterdam
    +31 (0)20 525 5340

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Published by  ACIL