ESIL Interest Group History of International Law

ESIL Interest Group History of International Law

vrijdag 2 december 2022

RECORDING: Völkerrechtsblog, "The World Bank’s Lawyers: Book Launch"

The recording of the joint ESIL IG History of International Law and ESIL IG International Organizations event has been posted on the Völkerrechtsblog website as part of a symposium dedicated to D. Van den Meerssche's newest book "The World Bank’s Lawyers: The Life of International Law as Institutional Practice".

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.