June 19, 2015

The International Legal Academic and Her Responsibility

Gleider I. Hernandez, Durham University, is publishing The Responsibility of the International Legal Academic: Situating the Grammarian within the 'Invisible College' in International Law as a Profession (A. Nollkaemper, W. Werner,J. d'Aspremont and T. Gazzini, eds.; Cambridge University Press, 2016). Here is the abstract.
It has been said that it is narcissistic for an international legal scholar to reflect on the role of the academic within the international legal profession. Yet international law is simultaneously constituted by and constitutes the community of international lawyers who engage with it. The relationship is ‘co-constitutive’, meaning on the one hand that it is the community of international lawyers who come to create, interpret and render operative the international law with which they engage in their professional practice; and simultaneously, that certain argumentative rules pervade the international legal discipline, generating background ideas that come to constitute, or at least structure, the professional vocabularies of all international lawyers.

This Chapter presents some reflections on the specific function of the international legal academic, and how our teachings come to structure the international law profession more generally, consider the extent to which the metaphor of a grammar common to international lawyers, which enables the creation and justifies the validity of international legal rules, constitutes the role of the international legal academic, using the metaphor of the grammarian. It will explore the international legal profession as a wider ‘community’ of practice, bound by interpretive canons or even a shared episteme rather than by a mere shared object of engagement. It will engage with so-called ‘activist’ scholarship that is mindful of its law-creative (normative) potential and seeks to take full advantage of it, acknowledge the social reality of international legal scholars being in constant engagement with practitioners, governmental officials, international judges. This Chapter will conclude with a few thoughts on how Koskenniemi’s famous call for a ‘culture of formalism’ can serve to acknowledge that the use of the international legal vocabulary is fundamentally a choice. Understanding the parameters of that choice can, above all, better understand and situate the role of the international legal scholar within the wider phenomenon of international law, and give rise to a wider ethic of responsibility on the part of international lawyers.
Download the essay from SSRN at the link.

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