ESIL Interest Group History of International Law

ESIL Interest Group History of International Law

woensdag 2 november 2022

BOOK LAUNCH: Dimitri VAN DEN MEERSSCHE, "The World Bank's Lawyers: The Life of International Law as Institutional Practice" (Zoom, 16 November 2022)


Source: OUP

In cooperation with the ESIL Interest Group on International Organizations and Völkerrechtsblog, the IG History of International Law is organizing an online book launch event for Dimitri van den Meerssche's (formerly at the Asser Institute and Edinburgh Law School, currently at Queen Mary University London) upcoming monograph on the history of lawyers at the World Bank: "The World Bank's Lawyers: The Life of International Law as Institutional Practice".

To attend, please register at the IG IO website. Please note that the event will be recorded and posted on the websites of the IG's and Völkerrechtsblog. Following the book launch, a book symposium will be published on the Völkerrechtsblog under the lead of Anna Sophia Tiedeke.

Programme (16 November 2022, 18h15 CET - 20h CET)

Word of welcome from the organizers - Florenz Volkaert (Ghent University, IG HIL)
  1. Book presentation by Dr. Dimitri Van den Meerssche (Queen Mary), 18h20-18h40
  2. Followed by a panel discussion with..., 18h40-19h25
    • Negar Mansouri (Graduate Institute, IG IO)
    • Dr. Gail Lythgoe (University of Manchester, IG IO)
    • Dr. Tommaso Soave (Central European University)
    • Dr. Ahmed Memon (Cardiff School of Law and Politics)
    • Florenz Volkaert (moderator, Ghent University, IG HIL)
      • ... and a response by Dr. Van den Meerssche
       3. Questions from the audience, 19h25-19h55     
               Concluding remarks - Florenz Volkaert

Book abstract:

The World Bank’s Lawyers provides an original socio-legal account of the evolving institutional life of international law. Informed by oral archives, months of participant observation, interviews, legal memoranda and documents obtained through freedom-of-information requests, it tells an untold story of the World Bank’s legal department between 1983 and 2016. This is a story of people and the beliefs they have, the influence they seek and the tools they employ. It is an account of the practices they cling to and how these practices gain traction, or how they fail to do so, in an international bureaucracy. Inspired by Actor-Network Theory, relational sociologies of association and performativity theory, this ethnographic exploration multiplies the matters of concern in our study of international law(yering): the human and non-human, material and semantic, obscure and evasive actants that tie together the fragile fabric of legality. In tracing these threads, this book signals important changes in the conceptual repertoire and materiality of international legal practice, as liberal ideals were gradually displaced by managerial modes of evaluation. It reveals a world teeming with life—a space where professional postures and prototypes, aesthetic styles and technical routines are woven together in law’s shifting mode of existence. This history of international law as a contingent cultural technique enriches our understanding of the discipline’s disenchantment and the displacement of its traditional tropes by unexpected and unruly actors. It thereby inspires new ways of critical thinking about international law’s political pathways, promises and pathologies, as its language is inscribed in ever-evolving rationalities of rule.

For more details, contact Florenz Volkaert ( and Negar Mansouri (