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In her guest lecture entitled 'International law and its writers' Lianne Boer (VU Amsterdam) will discuss the construction of authority in international law through writing. She will argue that it matters how we write (about) international law for what is possible to do with it and how we understand our own role in relation to it.

Detail Summary
Date 20 April 2020
Time 15:30 - 17:00

Summary

I want to use this seminar to present a chapter for a volume edited by Gleider Hernandez and Giedre Jokubauskaite on the construction of authority in international law. I take the phrase ‘Article 51 authorizes the use of force in self-defense’ to argue that its grammar creates a self-sustaining law, operating “without the apparent … assistance of the author” (Schlag). I scrutinize what results from these acts of writing and what they facilitate or allow for in terms of thinking about the law as operating independently of its users. For, crucially, it is scholarly writing through which this is achieved: the very act of writing effectuates a scission between the writer and the law s/ he writes about, meaning the law can now perform its authorizing function (Cover, Winter). I do not mean to say that this function exists solely by virtue of this way of writing. Rather, I seek to point out that writing about law in this manner represents and facilitates an idea of law as distinct from its authors. (idem) In so doing I draw heavily on the works of Marianne Constable and Pierre Schlag. Constable’s work facilitates a very detailed analysis of the importance of how we phrase our sentences for what we understand law to be, as a ‘thing’ or stand-alone sub/object. In brief, this is about the performativity of grammar. Pierre Schlag, in turn, places the emphasis on legal writing as a creative act engaged in by its subjects. Brought together, Constable and Schlag demonstrate in different ways how legal scholarly writing is not an innocent or ‘accidental’ (Schlag) practice, but instead is productive of law. In other words, the grammar of the phrase central to this chapter – ‘Article 51 authorizes’ – may do something we fail to see when we merely consider it as expressing a particular legal reality. In sum, it matters how we write (about) international law for what is possible to do with it and how we understand our own role in relation to it.

The Speaker

Lianne Boer is Assistant Professor of Transnational Legal Studies at the Faculty of Law, VU Amsterdam, and a Research Fellow of the Centre for the Politics of Transnational Law. She was awarded her PhD cum laude in April 2017; her dissertation dealt with the (socio)linguistics of knowledge production in international legal scholarship. She teaches Politics of International Law (LLM) and is part of the programme board of the new Law in Society LLB at VU Amsterdam. In her current research she looks at international legal scholarship as a collection of narratives, featuring international law as the main character.