Public International Law

Public International Law
A Multi-Perspective Approach
Team: Shubhangi Agarwalla, Thamil Venthan Ananthavinayagan, Walter Arévalo-Ramírez, Kanad Bagchi, Grażyna Baranowska, Bernardo Mageste Castelar Campos, He Chi, Vishakha Choudhary, Annalisa Ciampi, Alex P. Dela Cruz, Anne Dienelt, Craig Eggett, Viljam Engström, Başak Etkin, Taxiarchis Fiskatoris, Sué González Hauck, Alex Green, Anna Hankings-Evans, Pia Hüsch, Patrick Lukusa Kadima, Verena Kahl, Deepa Kansra, Rafaela Kunz, Lucas Carlos Lima, Marnie Lloydd, Miriam Bak McKenna, Max Milas, Tamsin Phillipa Paige, Anne Peters, Abbas Poorhashemi, Daniel Ricardo Quiroga-Villamarín, Adamantia Rachovitsa, Andrés Rousset-Siri, Juliana Santos de Carvalho, Silvia Steininger, Victor Stoica, Romania Marko Svicevic, Jens T. Theilen, Imdad Ullah, Raghavi Viswanath, Thalia Viveros-Uehara, Beatrice A. Walton

Endorsements edit

Public international law scholarship has since the days of its “founding fathers” been dominated by single authored sums. The biases inherent in such a model have become all too obvious, which is why Public International Law: A Multi-Perspective Approach is just the collection we needed. International law will only be reconfgured in decades to come if the extent to which it has meant very different things for different people is recognized in textbooks themselves. We owe the diversity of our students this very diversity of perspectives.

  • Frédéric Mégret, Full Professor, Co-director of the Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism, Hans & Tamar Oppenheimer Chair in Public International Law, McGill University

Put together with both care and fair, featuring terrifc voices both seasoned and new, covering both key concepts and contemporary concerns, taking us from history to future, deep sea to outer space, cores to peripheries, and open access to boot, this is a delightful cocktail of a textbook. I look forward to many happy hours with it.

  • Surabhi Ranganathan, Professor of International Law and Director of Postgraduate Education, University of Cambridge

Preface edit

The teaching of international law is governed by exclusions. Although international law – like no other feld of law – is shaped by global, universal aspirations, its teaching is provincial fnancially, personally, geographically, and epistemologically. With this perspective in mind, we decided to initiate this textbook on public international law in spring 2021. It has been created within the fabric of OpenRewi. Initially, OpenRewi, which stands for open rechtswissenschaft (German: ‘legal scholarship’ or ‘legal science’), was founded in Germany and focused on publishing German textbooks and casebooks. The idea behind the initiative is to use the possibilities the internet ofers to contribute to reducing some of the existing exclusions: today it is possible to publish digitally and make content available at no cost to everyone around the globe with an internet connection. Accordingly, all teaching materials created by OpenRewi are published as Open Educational Resources (OER). This allows students and teachers to freely access, use, modify, and share these resources independent of institutional afliation, region, and economic status.

However, a perhaps even greater need for OER exists in the feld of international law, with huge global disparities existing in terms of access to high quality teaching materials. It is not farfetched to say that the potential ofered by the internet to make knowledge widely accessible has not been realised in international law. If textbooks are available digitally, they remain behind a paywall. Indeed, to the best of our knowledge, not a single international law textbook exists which is freely accessible and reusable in line with Open Access terms.

Amid a global pandemic and after numerous all-too-familiar video conferences, we thus decided to fll this gap. Timidly and uncertainly, we published a call for authors. This call aimed at overcoming legal and technical barriers to create the frst-ever collaboratively written and openly accessible textbook in international law. It quickly turned out that our worries were unfounded. Over 100 authors, among them both established scholars and younger researchers, responded with their ideas. It became obvious that the idea of an open textbook hit a nerve, and that many shared our feeling that teaching materials in international law need to become more accessible. However, it was evident to us that Open Access has to mean more than facilitating access. What need to be ‘opened’ are also processes of knowledge production and scholarship themselves.

The approach we thus opted for in elaborating this textbook is refected in its title: we deliberately chose a multi-perspectivist approach. With this, we mean that the textbook aims to represent a diversity of perspectives in at least three ways: intellectual approaches, gender, and regional representation. We were partially successful in this respect. Never before have so many critical scholars contributed to a textbook on public international law. Never before have authors of an international law textbook lived on all inhabited continents. Never before have more women and non-binary people than men contributed to an international law textbook as authors. However, we must also concede and disclose that we did, to some extent, reproduce existing power structures and hierarchies when selecting authors. We have shared our call for authors on platforms that are primarily read by people from the Global North. We selected authors based on proposals that seemed familiar to us in terms of language and thinking. Only one author based at an institution on the African continent and one Chinese author contributed to our textbook. The textbook is published in English and therefore requires a certain language profciency, which presupposes economic and cultural capital that is unequally distributed globally. Furthermore, selections also cause rejections, and so we would like to express gratitude to all unsuccessful applicants once again.

Multi-perspectivism for us also meant designing the writing process in ways that allowed for inclusivity. After we had selected the authors, further video conferences followed in which we discussed the structure, content, and approach of the textbook as a collective. The result of these discussions was the table of contents and didactic concept of this textbook described in more detail below. Based on this, all authors could choose their desired chapters. Like other OpenRewi projects, we used the Wikimedia Foundation’s open platform Wikibooks to create our textbook. The platform enables the free creation and publication of digital books. Each chapter of our book has been allocated its own page on Wikibooks. This allows readers, authors, and editors to track, comment, and correct all developments of a chapter.

The goal of this multi-perspectivist approach to producing a textbook consists in not only reproducing conventional knowledge about international law but also allowing students to question it. Multi-perspectivism, therefore, also means departing from the standard of the textbook genre. The genre of the textbook has been one of the main tools through which a particular perspective – the perspective of a white, European man – has been allowed to portray itself as objective and thus usurp the place of the universal. Three main features of the book’s composition are supposed to work to break up this standard narrative: First, even though there is a distinct part covering history, theory, and methodology, the chapters in this part are only supposed to deliver the relevant background knowledge to be able to understand the historical and theoretical underpinnings of each chapter. Most chapters contain extensive historical and theoretical contextualisations themselves instead of just reproducing the standard textbook narrative. Second, chapters on diferent approaches and methodologies are relatively detailed and focused on critical approaches. While it may be confusing for students to some degree to be introduced in relative detail (compared to other textbooks) to, for example, Feminist, Marxist, and Third World Approaches to International Law, and with interdisciplinarity, without frst being introduced to the core concepts that usually stand at the beginning of a textbook, this confusion is not accidental but calculated. The idea is that students will encounter ways of looking critically at the standard way of conceiving international law before they encounter this standard narrative – not the other way around, as is most often the case. Third, and maybe most obviously, the book is not pretending to ofer a single perspective that could be framed as universal. The authors who have contributed to the book come from diverse backgrounds and have received their professional formation in diferent ways. While we have, of course, strived for a degree of cohesiveness that allows students to work with this book as a coherent whole rather than as a set of loosely connected individual chapters, we have not imposed a single perspective or approach on our diverse authors. Their individual voice and perspective are palpable, and students will be able to appreciate each of these perspectives as what it is – a perspective that they can take as a reliable source for the knowledge and the skills they need in order to be able to craft an international legal argument but still one perspective that they are invited to question.

However, some limitations remain. Writing a textbook as a collective composed of a majority of female and non-binary scholars and of many scholars located in or having a diasporic or ancestral connection to the Global South does not eliminate all the problems of exclusion and hierarchisation inherent in writing a textbook. Writing a textbook that counts as an instance of the genre involves reproducing, at least to some degree, the standard textbook narrative associated with mainstream international law. Reproducing this standard narrative is not only a matter of complying with the conventions of the genre, but it also has connections to questions of how to contribute to a profession of international law that is more accessible. Access to the profession is mediated through examinations that students have to pass. These examinations, in most non-elite places of higher education, will ask students to reproduce the standard textbook narrative in some form. Therefore, where this textbook adheres to this narrative it does so not in spite of but because of the fact that this is the narrative that has established itself as dominant – not through intellectual persuasion but through imperialism and hegemonic moves. Part of the dominant narrative this textbook knowingly reproduces is the distinction between the diferent parts of the textbook, split into a frst part covering ‘History, Theory, and Methods’, a second part devoted to ‘General International Law’, and a third part introducing students to ‘Specialised Fields’ of international law. Nothing beyond the conventions of the feld provides an explanation for why, for example, international human rights law counts as a specialised feld whereas the law of immunities or diplomatic relations pertains to ‘general international law’. The same can be said for many aspects refected in the composition and content of the book. We hope, however, that the multi-perspectivist approach can allow students to not only familiarise themselves with the standard textbook narrative but to see its contingency from the beginning and therefore embark on their international law journey with their critical minds sharpened.

From the beginning, we wanted to publish the textbook in a printed version as well, with an established publisher, in order to raise its visibility, and to ofer its readership a further seal of quality in addition to the open peer review process. After some informational contact with well-known publishers since the beginning of 2023, we were incredibly grateful when Routledge got back to us with enthusiasm. From that point on, it was clear to us that we wanted to publish the textbook with Routledge. We are sincerely grateful to Emily Kindleysides and Chloe Herbert at Routledge for their professional, kind, and efcient support. We received fnancial support from the German Centre for Integration and Migration Studies (DeZIM) with funds from the German Ministry of Family Afairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth. This fnancial support has made it possible for us to keep this publication Open Access. We therefore remain deeply grateful to DeZIM, particularly to Dr. Noa Ha, Volker Knoll-Hoyer, Dr. Cihan Sinanoglu, and Benjamin Schwarze. Eva Vogel has been immensely helpful, supporting us in fnishing the manuscript and providing feedback from a student’s perspective.

Structure edit

Bringing together a unique range of perspectives from around the world and from different theoretical approaches, this textbook introduces both the overarching questions and doctrines of public international law, as well as the specialised sub-felds. These include emerging felds such as international law in cyberspace, international migration law, and the international climate regime. The book includes numerous case examples, references to debates and controversies in the literature, and focus sections addressing topics in more depth. Featuring an array of pedagogical features, including learning objectives, suggested further reading and resources, and interactive exercises, this book is ideal for students studying this feld for the frst time and also offers something new for students who would like to deepen their knowledge via a diverse and engaging range of perspectives.

Fundamentally, our textbook targets students encountering these subjects for the first time. However, each chapter also incorporates advanced content tailored to graduate students or those pursuing doctoral studies, at least introductory. Additionally, the inclusion of further readings in every chapter serves as a resource not only for students but also for teachers seeking supplementary materials for their courses.

Our aim is to imbue the textbook with greater interactivity and utility while reimagining traditional forms of knowledge dissemination. The integration of interactive exercises serves to not only engage students more effectively but also to provide them with opportunities for self-assessment following class participation or textbook reading. Drawing from our collective experiences as teachers, and informed by student feedback, we recognize the value students place on such interactive elements.

About the Book edit

This book is meant to be a living document. You will find invitations and hints for collaboration on every single page. We would be happy if you get in contact with the authors and contribute with comments. How to do that is described here. More information about the project OpenRewi - Initiative for an Open Legal Science can be found on our website.

  • Suggested Citation: Name of Author, 'Chapter Title', in: González Hauck/Kunz/Milas (eds.), Public International Law: A Multi-Perspective Approach, Permanent URL, Version Date: DD.MM.YYYY.

This book is licensed under [Commons BY-SA 4.0]. You may copy, distribute, or modify content from our book in any medium and format. However, you must give us appropriate credit. Also, if you modify our content, the modification must also be licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0. You will find more information in our Instructions for Reuse. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.

Official book cover (Routledge version)

This book is also published by Routledge. It can be purchased as a printed book or downloaded.

Table of Contents edit

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Part I - History, Theory, and Methods

Part II - General International Law

Part III - Specialized Fields