Saturday, January 6, 2018

Call for Papers: 14th Annual Conference of the European Society of International Law and ESIL Young Scholars Prize

I am happy to pass along the call for papers of the 14th Annual Conference of the European Society of International Law. It will be held in Manchester, United Kingdom, under the auspices of the Manchester International Law Centre (MILC). The conference begins on Thursday 13 September and ends on Saturday 15 September 2018.
Deadline for submission of abstracts – 31 January 2018
Deadline for submission of full papers – 15 July 2018
The conference begins on Thursday 13 September and ends on Saturday 15 September 2018
Deadline for submission of final papers (to be included in the ESIL SSRN series and/ or a future conference publication) – 1 November 2018
The  Conference Concept Note (Theme: International Law and Universality) follows along with information about the ESIL Young Scholar Prize and submission info and links. 

International law and universality

For at least a century, universality has been a constitutive element of international legal discourses as well as of international lawyers’ identity. Universality is constantly invoked by international lawyers when they argue about the binding nature of international customary rules, reservations to multilateral conventions, the consequences for breaches of rules of customary international law, the legal interest vested in some obligations deemed to be of general interest, the membership of regulatory regimes specific to international law, etc. Universality similarly informs international lawyers’ debates on particularism, cultural relativism, and regionalism which represent its flip side. Likewise, universality is often made the evaluative yardstick through which the state of global governance and expert regimes are gauged in order to diagnose what is wrong with the current state of the world.

Universality is commonly conductive to linear progress narratives whereby international law is said to have been moving from a law of autonomous sovereigns to a law of an integrated world community. Universality of modes of legal reasoning is also presumed by those engaging in legal discourses with a view to preserving international legal argumentation and the possibility of international law allegedly serving as a common language for the continuation of “politics”. Whether they speak of the universality of international law, universality for international law, universality through and by international law, universality in the name of international law, a universalist project, the ‘universal’, and so on, international lawyers have always made universality a central part of their international legal discourses.

In recent decades, however, the virtues and the ostensible progress commonly associated with universality have been contested. As is illustrated by several generations of Third World Approaches to International Law, international lawyers have argued that universality can function as an ideology as well as an instrument of domination and exclusion. They have come to realise that the way in which universality is deployed in international legal discourses constantly creates a periphery and an otherness that suppresses memory and struggle. Just as the use of the idea of humanity fuelled skepticism in the middle of the 20th century, the invocation of universality has come to arouse suspicion among international lawyers. For many international lawyers today, “whoever invokes universality wants to cheat”. Universality is both a way to transcend particularism, a tool for domination and exclusion, and only achieved through hegemony.

The conference will take a hard and unflinching look at the multitude of roles and functions played by universality in international legal discourses as well as in its associated narratives of progress and virtues. In doing so, it will provide a critical appraisal of the mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion that comes with international law and its universalist discursive strategies. This will require that universality is not reduced to the question of the geographical outreach of international law but, instead, is understood in terms of boundaries. This will also entail examining how the idea of universality – which does not lend itself to a translation in all languages – was developed in some of the dominant vernaculars of international law – primarily English and French – before being generalised and imposed upon international lawyers from all traditions. This will simultaneously offer an opportunity to revisit the ideologies that constitute the identity of international lawyers today as well as the socialisation, reproduction, and education processes that they undergo to become international lawyers. Special attention will be paid to the place that Europe has secured for itself by virtue of the progress and historical narratives built around the idea of universality.

Keynote speakers and fora speakers will include leading theorists, renowned scholars as well as distinguished practitioners. The various problématiques and legal questions discussed during the conference will be of interest for a wide range of international lawyers including academics, researchers, students, and practitioners. In line with ESIL tradition, 4 fora panels will explore broader normative, theoretical and methodological issues. In addition to keynote addresses by distinguished and leading scholars, plenary sessions and fora featuring invited speakers, the programme includes a number of agorae where more specific issues will be discussed. 12 Agorae will be designed around eight sub-themes identified below. Agora speakers will be selected on the basis of abstracts submitted in response to the present call for papers. The purpose of the agorae is to share critical thoughts and cutting-edge research in relation to the theme of the conference with a view to stimulating debate. Papers submitted as a result of this call for papers may focus on any branch of international law and related fields which are to be discussed in the agora concerned. Papers should present innovative ideas, be unpublished at the time of presentation, and be at an advanced stage of completion. The general conference theme and the themes of the agorae are described below.

The working languages of the conference are English and French. Since no translation will be provided, it is assumed that participants have passive understanding of both languages and active understanding of at least one of them.


Submission of paper proposals
The programme committee will review the abstracts submitted for each agora. Joint submissions are possible, but, if selected, only one person will be eligible for a reduced registration fee at the conference. Panel proposals are not eligible and will not be considered. Only one abstract per author will be considered.
Selection criteria are:
  • Originality and innovativeness of the work
  • Relevance to the agora theme
  • Geographical and gender balance
Abstracts (in word and PDF format, not exceeding 800 words) must be submitted via the conference email:

The following information must be provided with each abstract:
  • The author’s name and affiliation
  • The author’s CV, including a list of relevant publications
  • A small biography (100 words) should be included in the abstract itself
  • The agora theme(s) (a maximum of two) for which the paper should be considered
  • The author’s contact details, including email address and phone number
  • Whether the author is a current ESIL member
  • Whether the abstract should be considered for the ESIL Young Scholar Prize; if so, please give the relevant dates (of PhD defence and ESIL membership)
Submission of panel proposals by ESIL interest groups
Two agorae will be reserved for the ESIL Interest Groups which are invited to submit panel proposals. Panel proposals are thus only eligible if they originate from an ESIL Interest Groups.
Agorae proposals from ESIL Interest Groups must include all the required information about individual papers that are to be part of the panel, as detailed in the Call for Papers. In addition, the following information must be provided when submitting an agora proposal:
  • The name of the ESIL Interest Group submitting the proposal
  • The contact details of the person(s) submitting the proposal, including email address and phone number
  • The title of the proposed panel
  • A description of the overall theme of the panel and the insights expected from the discussion
  • The format of the agora: panel, roundtable, or other format (please note: all agorae will be scheduled for 1.5 hours, there can be a maximum of 4 participants)
  • A full set of abstracts of the individual papers that are to be part of the panel
Proposals must be sent to

ESIL Young Scholar Prize
ESIL will award the Young Scholar Prize (YSP) again in Manchester. The ESIL Young Scholar Prize is generously sponsored by the law firm WilmerHale.  The winner of the YSP will be announced in the conference brochure and the Prize will be awarded at the conference dinner. The winner receives 2 years’ free membership of ESIL as well as conference participation expenses of up to 500 euros. In addition, the Prize-winning paper will be published in the European Journal of International Law (subject to review).
This prize will be awarded for the best paper submitted to the conference or to a pre-conference Interest Group event by scholars at an early stage in their academic career. Early-career scholars are either PhD candidates or those who have had their oral defence no longer than 3 years prior to the submission of the abstract. Candidates for the prize have to be ESIL members at the time of submitting their abstract. Co-authored articles will only be considered for the prize if all authors fulfil the eligibility criteria.
In order to be considered, please provide the following information when submitting the abstract:
  • An expression of interest in competing for the ESIL Young Scholar Prize
  • Date of enrolment in PhD programme / date of PhD defence
  • Date of joining ESIL
Upon acceptance of the abstract for presentation at the conference and notification that they are eligible for the YSP, authors must submit a paper of between 8,000 and 12,000 words (including footnotes) to the ESIL Secretariat ( by 1 July 2018 for consideration by the YSP jury.

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