Authors: Silvia Steininger, Tamsin Phillipa Paige

Required knowledge: none

Learning objectives: This chapter introduces law students to the basics of interdisciplinarity in public international law. Students will learn about the main strands of interdisciplinary scholarship and the most prominent methodological tools available. They will be able to fully grasp the benefits and challenges of adopting an interdisciplinary perspective on international law and receive helpful practical guidance in creating their own interdisciplinary legal research projects.

This chapter introduces basic elements of interdisciplinarity in public international law. While the majority of international law scholarship is still dominated by doctrinal research, adopting interdisciplinary perspectives on the theory, history, and practice of international law has become increasingly important for students of international law. Students are requested to not only familiarize themselves with interdisciplinary methods, but also apply those insights to international law. However, most programs lack a thorough introduction to the conceptual toolbox of interdisciplinary research. This chapter aims to remedy this gap and show students why, when, and how to engage in interdisciplinary research projects.

A. Basics for Interdisciplinarity in Public International Law edit

The call for 'interdisciplinarity' has become a staple in international legal research. It 'can be seen everywhere, ranging from funding calls, research agendas, grant applications, conference themes and internet blogs to rhetorical manoeuvres.'[1] Yet, the more interdisciplinarity gained in popularity, the fuzzier its meaning actually became. To move between disciplines comes with benefits and challenges. In this section, we want to sketch out the basics for what interdisciplinarity means, why it is useful, and how to start an interdisciplinary research project.

I. What is Interdisciplinarity? edit

In general terms, interdisciplinarity denotes research projects that aim at synthesizing and harmonizing knowledge and methods between two or more disciplines into a coordinated and coherent whole.[2] It stands opposite of intradisciplinarity, which describes working exclusively in the boundaries of one single discipline. Interdisciplinarity thus requires that the general, theoretical as well as empirical assumptions between two or more disciplines are not in contradiction to each other. Moreover, it necessitates a strong, substantial and methodological understanding of those disciplines, which often takes significant amount of time and exposure to the relevant scholarly communities and their writings. Most international legal scholarship takes the form of transdisciplinary or multidisciplinary research, the latter describing persons from different disciplines working together on a common project, each drawing on their own disciplinary knowledge and expertise. This is usually achieved by multidisciplinary teams of authors. Transdisciplinarity attempts to create a unitary common framework among two or more disciplines, to find common research questions, harmonize definitions, and identify explanations that stretch over the scope of just one disciplinary horizon.

Critics of interdisciplinary scholarship argue that the emergence of x-disciplinarity (inter-, intra-, trans- and multi-disciplinarity)[3] dilutes disciplinary boundaries, threatens the idea of a specialized profession and challenges central understandings such as legal autonomy.[4] In fact, disciplines are not academic silos but overlap and interact with each other constantly. International law suits itself to interdisciplinary approaches, as many research questions necessitate at least a contextual understanding of law. Nevertheless, this should not underestimate the politics behind the turn to interdisciplinarity. In the words of Jan Klabbers, 'interdisciplinarity is a politically charged activity in itself.'[5] Interdisciplinary approaches might reproduce, disguise, or even strengthen existing power relations. Adopting an interdisciplinary research agenda and methodological toolbox further requires additional opportunity costs, for instance to get access to methodological training or resources such as specific programs, which might exacerbates structural inequalities in academia. Interdisciplinarity can thus rupture disciplinary gatekeeping and democratize the creation of new knowledge on fundamental questions of international law, but also create additional barriers and adopt a marketized logic, in which research is guided by the use of fancy methodologies rather than research questions.[6]

II. Why do interdisciplinary research? edit

Classical, doctrinal scholarship in international law usually adopts an internal view on law. The internal viewpoint takes the perspective of an insider to law, a law student, a professor, or practitioner, who was trained and socialized into the legal community. They participate in the legal discourse, are preoccupied with legal arguments, and decision-oriented. In contrast, interdisciplinary scholarship promotes an external view of law. It usually take the perspective of the outsider, who observes the processes, structures, and norms of international law in action. Interdisciplinary research allows to ask questions which go beyond the internal logic of law. It does not limit itself to how the law is, but also why the law has been applied in a certain way, and how it should be in the future. Interdisciplinary approaches enable the identification of causalities or at least indicate possible explanations for certain situations or developments in international law. They can also illuminate underlying patterns and structures, which have been overlooked, thus benefiting critical engagement with international law and providing support for improvement via interpretation or further development of the law.[7]

III. How to do interdisciplinary research? edit

Naturally, there are countless options to analyze international law from an interdisciplinary perspective and we will give you more insights in the following section. However, in general, interdisciplinary research requires a more structural approach to international legal research. One can generally distinguish between five steps:

First, you need to familiarize yourself with the respective approaches in depth before the start of the research project. This requires to understand the underlying epistemological considerations, fundamental concepts, and classic authors, who have shaped the particular approach. Moreover, it is helpful to map the existing interdisciplinary engagement with international law. This is important not only to assess the state of the discipline and the topics that are being discussed, but also to identify the respective community, which underpins the respective research project. One can thereby learn how to approach the same topic from different angles, how to transpose fundamental concepts to the study of international law, and to get socialized into the respective academic and writing style.

Secondly, in contrast to classical, doctrinal research, interdisciplinary research embraces a more transparent and open structure. In general, the scholar will first identify the research question(s) and possible hypotheses and counterhypotheses before analyzing the data. That does not not mean that the availability and access to source material cannot guide the respective research design, but it means that the data does not predetermine the research questions. This is different to doctrinal research, in which the identification of structures and the categorization of cases is a major research aim in itself.

Thirdly, it is important that the respective researcher openly and transparently justifies the respective research design. Interdisciplinary scholarship often includes an explicit methodology section. In this section, the author justifies, among others, why this particular approach is useful for the study of international law, how this influences the research question(s), which factors guide the identification of hypotheses, what were the criteria required for the selection of research units, which methodologies are going to be applied, how is the data being gathered, and what are the limitations of this particular method. In general, the various empirical methods can be grouped in either qualitative, focusing on the interpretation of words and meanings of texts, or quantitative, focusing on the interpretation of numbers and statistics. Advanced scholars sometimes also apply so-called 'mixed methods"'which can include a combination of several qualitative and quantitative methods. At this stage, the author can also identify how the project relates to existing research or conflicting approaches and clearly limit the research agenda.

Fourthly, the researcher gathers the necessary data. Again, a variety of options exist, ranging from comparative research designs, to archival work, as well as qualitative and quantitative approaches, which will be highlighted in section D. This step might take significant time and require additional resources such as travel, software etc. It is also heavily reliant on factors outside of the control of the respective researcher, such as access to sources, for instance archives and interview partners.

Finally, the data will be evaluated with respect to the aforementioned research question. This often includes giving a systematic overview and highlighting particularly interesting or unexpected factors. Hypotheses can be confirmed or refuted. Moreover, it is possible to consider some possible explanations for particular outcomes, reaffirm the limitations of the results or identify options to expand on the research in future projects.

B. Types of Interdisciplinary Scholarship in International Law edit

Throughout the last decades, particular types of interdisciplinary scholarship have emerged in international legal research. This section provides a non-exhaustive overview of main strands and thinkers as a first gateway to glean inspiration for further engagement.

I. International Law and History edit

Interdisciplinary study of international law and history is perhaps the most common form of interdisciplinarity in the study of international law. This is because it’s a form of study that ties deeply with what is done through doctrinal legal research. Because doctrinal legal research necessarily requires placing the principles espoused by legal instruments or relevant international court decisions in the context in which they were made, in order to understand how they would apply in a new context, the study of international law lends itself towards historical enquiry. Prime examples of this type of scholarship can be found in the work of Arnulf Becker Lorca,[8] James Crawford,[9] Martti Koskenniemi,[10] and Anne Orford.[11] The purpose of international law and history interdisciplinary enquiry is not to determine the 'true' or 'original' meaning of a piece of international law, in line with the originalism doctrine espoused in US Constitutional Law.[12] Rather, scholars engaging historical enquiries of international law often aim to disrupt accepted narratives that established alleged 'legal truths'.[13] The historigraphical turn in international law has also put significant emphasis on researching the history of international law in non-Western regions and peripheries. This includes not only a renewed emphasis on questions of imperialism[14] and colonialism,[15] but also on regional perspectives, for instance on international law and the history of ideas in Latin America,[16] Africa,[17] and Russia,[18] as well inter-civilizational perspectives.[19]

II. International Law and Sociology edit

The primary goal of legal sociology (as both a discipline and method) is 'to provide insight into an understanding of the law through an empirical study of its practice.'[20] This particular field of interdisciplinary study of international law finds its origins in the work of Pierre Brourdieu, Émile Durkheim, and Max Weber. In terms of empirical and theoretical studies into the practice of international law sociology is relatively small or niche when compared with International Law and International Relations (discussed in this section in conjunction with International Law and Political Science). This can be explained on methodological grounds. Sociology is a methods- and theory-based discipline which means that there is a battery of defined available methods, new methods need to be sufficiently tested, justified, and articulated to be considered valid included and social theory is directly informed by empirical observation of the world. Political science and international relations, however, are subject matter based disciplines and thus have more scope as they adopt the different methodologies from other disciplines such as sociology.[21] In the last two decades, research on sociological perspectives in international law has particularly focused on the practice of international lawyers as a legal profession,[22] the evolution, proliferation, and authority of international courts,[23] the practices of international adjudicators,[24] as well as the emergence and structure of legal fields, for instance in international economic law[25] as well as international criminal law.[26]

III. International Law and Political Science edit

Political science perspectives on international law primarily focus on the 'development, operation, spread, and impact of international legal norms, agreements, and institutions.'[27] They include theoretical and conceptual framework as well as political science methods, in particular qualitative and quantitative approaches. It expands the study of international law to investigate the role of political organization, government, and structures upon which international law relies. While its beginnings can be traced back to the early 20th century[28], the most prominent political science approach to international law is international relations. International relations theories usually highlight three facets of international law: power, international cooperation, and domestic politics.[29] Yet, the relevance and understanding of those factors depends on the different strands of international relations theory. In general, one can distinguish between at least four dominant strands: realism (focusing on power), institutionalism (focusing on the role of institutions and regimes), liberalism (focusing on how domestic factors influence international affairs), and constructivism (focusing on the role of norms).[30] Critical approaches such as Marxism, feminism, or post-structuralist strands are also applied. Historically, the disciplines of international law and international relations developed along related but usually not intersecting tracks.[31] However, with the proliferation of international cooperation, the end of realist Cold War politics, and the rise of the US-backed liberal internationalist world order, a vocal community of IL-IR scholars emerged in the 1990s. They included, among others, Kenneth W. Abbott,[32] Robert O. Keohane,[33] and, most prominently, Anne-Marie Slaughter.[34] Prominent IL-IR research strands focus on the compliance with international law,[35] questions of legality and legitimacy,[36] the emergence of norms[37] as well as their contestation,[38] and the proliferation of international courts.[39]

IV. International Law and Literature edit

International Law and Literature as an interdisciplinary field of study follows the same paths and approaches as the Law and Literature movement more generally. The general goal of this type of interdisciplinary research is to use literature to advance understandings of international law in some way. While this is generally done through the pursuit of academic scholarship, it can also be done through the production of works of fiction. Classic examples of using works of fiction to discuss concepts of international law and justice are the work of China Miéville[40] and The Reader by Bernhard Schlink.[41] When engaging in academic approaches to International Law and Literature interdisciplinary work, authors tend to do one of three things with the literature aspect of this scholarship: 1) use works of fiction to explain and make accessible concepts of international law to non-experts or to illustrate a point of international law to fellow legal scholars;[42] 2) use works of literature as conceptual data to explore societal responses to international law;[43] or 3) use literature as a tool of jurisprudence in order to develop legal theory on particular issues.[44] Often, the aim of international law and literature, as with all law and literature interdisciplinary studies, the tool of the literature is to help people understand international law in a new or more accessible way. The respective type of literature can also move with time, for instance historical-oriented works have focused on the role of world-making in early 20th century fiction[45] while recent scholarship also discussed the depiction of international law in popular culture and modern fiction.[46]

V. International Law and Economics edit

The economic analysis of international law has emerged in the 2000s,[47] but builds on the more established domestic Law and Economics literature starting from the 1960 in US academia.[48] Its primary aim is to apply economic theory, in particular rational choice approaches, to problems of international law. The core assumption of the economic theory is the rational actor model. Economic analysis of international law thus assumes that states are self-interested and make decisions among alternatives to maximize their gains. They act according to the rational choice model in the design of international agreements and the creation of international law.[49] Methodologically, international law and economics scholarship often applies quantitative methods based on large datasets, as well as experiments. International law and economics sheds lights on two facets of international law: the importance of self-interest for state behavior and how this affects how states design and comply with international law.[50] The economic approach to international law[51] has been focused on the different modes of treaty making,[52] the design of specific clauses such as treaty exits,[53] international dispute settlement,[54] and the legitimacy of customary international law.[55] Economic analyses also investigated how particular rules of institutional design might foster compliance.[56] A more recent but rapidly growing strand of interdisciplinary analysis on the economic analysis of international law is formed under the umbrella of Law and Political Economy (LPE).[57] Research on international law from an LPE perspective investigates how international law creates wealth and inequality[58] and upholds neoliberal hegemony[59] but also how it might 'contribute to understanding and transforming centre–periphery patterns of dynamic inequality in global political economic life.'[60]

VI. International Law and Psychology edit

International Law and Psychology has been developed in the 2010s and primarily adopts insights of behavioralism and cognitive psychology to international law. There are apparent overlaps between the emerging movement of behavioralist international law and the earlier economic analysis, not only amongst its main proponents but also its substantive questions and methods. Its main difference to economic analysis, however, concerns the rational choice paradigm. Psychological or behavioralist analyses do not assume perfect rationality, but rather want to empirical explore how the different actors in international law 'actually behave'.[61] Behavioralism complements the economic approach by demonstrating that the action of individuals is often not determined by the maximum utility but influenced by several bias.[62] To understand how those biases influence the behavior of individuals, behavioralist often rely on experiments. Yet, the application of experimental insights upon the behavior of states in international law is more challenging than to powerful individual decision-makers such as heads of state, diplomats, or judges.[63] Behavioralist insights have been applied to a variety of international law issues, for instance, on treaty design[64], treaty interpretation,[65] international trade disputes,[61] bilateral investment treaties,[66] legal theory,[67] international humanitarian law[68] or how to incentivize compliance via rewards.[69]

VII. International Law and Anthropology edit

Anthropological analysis of international law have been primarily developed after the 1990s, however, earlier works on human rights in socio-cultural contexts can be identified. Anthropology and international law thus attempts to understand the social and cultural contexts of international law, often via ethnographical fieldwork in various local socio-cultural settings. Today, anthropological perspectives are in particular applied to account for the developments in three different international law spaces: the expansion of human rights discourse, the globalization of law, and international organizations.[70] Anthropological perspectives aim at understanding how international law is produced and how it works by focusing on the individuals and communities which create and are affected by international law.[71] Anthropology thus highlights three overlooked facets of international law: First, it allows an anti-formalist approach to international law, i.e. it can be applied to legal norms notwithstanding if they take the form of hard or soft law, written text or oral order.[72] Secondly, it goes against the state centrism of international law by focusing on how individuals and communities as well as non-state actors, corporations, organizations etc create and interact with international law also along transnational lines.[73] Thirdly, it situates the development and function of international law in specific local contexts, thus rejecting the universalist view and allowing for an integration with postcolonial or critical theory.[74] Anthropological perspectives have been applied to understand how human rights have spread globally while also being clearly affected by local dynamics,[75] how social movements engaged with struggles over international law,[76] interactions between indigenous law and international law,[77] the role of professionals such as lawyers and judges,[78] as well as case studies of different legal institutions and regimes, for instance in international criminal justice.[79]

VIII. International Law and Linguistics edit

International Law and Linguistics primarily focusses on the analysis of the language of international law and its discourses. Its main aim is to uncover the meaning of particular legal provisions by examining how it is being used or understood by different actors.[80] This includes also the study of different languages[81] as well as issues related to the translation of terms.[82] Insights of the linguistic analysis of international law are thus used to understand the drafting, interpretation, and application of legal norms in treaties and jurisprudence.[83] Discourse analysis and text linguistics examines the legal text and its surrounding context. Analysis of syntax focus on how different phrases are combined and connected to form part of text structures. Semantics and pragmatics aim to understand the meaning of terms for instance via their original meaning or by differentiating it from closely related provisions. Studies of historical linguistics and etymology investigate how particular terms have been historically developed and interpreted. Lexicography relies on the understanding of dictionaries. Corpus linguistics and computational linguistics aim at handling large amounts of texts to understand the use of certain words or collocations. Sociolinguistics emphasize how social factors such as class, gender, or age influence our language, while forensic linguistic studies how language is used as evidence in legal processes. In international law, linguistic insights have been applied to the interpretation of international legal norms,[84] the use of references in the decisions of international courts and tribunals[85] as well as self-citation practices in general.[86] Another important strand of research critically reflects on the language(s) in which international law claims universality[87] and challenges the English-centrism of international law.[88]

IX. International Law and Other Approaches edit

It is essential to point out that there are also a multitude of other types of interdisciplinary approaches to international law and legal research. Those have been particularly popular in new fields of legal research, for instance in the area of climate research, animal studies, or technology and data science. In general, for interactions with philosophy, you can find inspiration in the chapter on positivism, while critical approaches explained in this book such as TWAIL, Marxism, and Feminism & Queer Theory, also suit themselves to interdisciplinary research agendas.

C. Methods of Interdisciplinary International Law Scholarships edit

While traditional legal scholarship mainly advocates for the doctrinal method, the toolbox of interdisciplinary approaches offers a much wider variety of methods to study international law. In the following, we propose the four main methodological "baskets": comparative method, archival research, qualitative method, and quantitative method. Those four methodological baskets are not mutually exclusive but can be combined and also complement each other, as well as classical doctrinal approaches.

I. Comparative Method edit

Comparison has long been a staple in comparative legal research, also in international law. Comparison can be generally understood as a method which aims at contrasting two or more research units to identify parallels and differences. Interdisciplinary research puts significant emphasis on justifying the design of a comparison. After identifying the research question, the respective scholar generally justifies the comparability of the respective research units.[89] The respective research units are called a case. The notion of case here is broader than its general use in international law (see Case Analysis). A 'case' in interdisciplinary scholarship can be a judgment, an institution, a court, or even a legal system as such. For instance, comparative international law has focused on understanding how and why national legal cultures differ in their engagement with international law.[90] In particular when there is only a small number of research units, interdisciplinary scholars aim to provide a thick description of the respective institutions or legal regimes, highlighting similarities and differences, and, if possible, how the researcher aims to account for potential divergences.

In the social sciences, most comparisons adopt an inductive method, originally developed by John Stuart Mill in his 1843 book 'A System of Logic', to illustrate their causal research hypothesis. This means that they account for an outcome (the dependent variable) as well as possible explanatory factors (the independent variable(s)). This is also called the 'most different' or 'most similar' cases design. In the former, the two or more cases are different in every relevant characteristic except for the outcome and the explanatory factor, in the latter everything between the two cases is similar except for the explanation and the outcome. Charles Tilly further distinguishes four types of comparative analysis, namely individualizing, universalizing, variation-finding, and encompassing.[91]

II. Archival Research edit

Archival research is generally associated with forms of historical enquiry; however, given the overlap of historical enquiry to other forms of interdisciplinary research, references to archival material will often crop up in various types of interdisciplinary research and even doctrinal research.[92] Primarily, the purpose of archival research is a search 'for materials that might flesh out the stories and histories of modern rhetoric and composition we were presenting.'[93] Archives can be either physically located or online, but this primary purpose does not change with the venue of the archives. Because the goal of archival work is defined primary sources that flesh out, or improve our understanding of historical narrative, the biggest question related to archival research is the decision about what to include (and perhaps more importantly what to exclude) from a piece of research.[94] Because this is an issue for all forms of empirical research this will be dealt with in more detail below; however, a general guide is that for something to be excluded there needs to be a defensible basis for that decision – if something is relevant to the topic, credible in terms of its origins, as within an acceptable tolerance of verifiability, it likely should be included in the work.

III. Qualitative Research Methods edit

While quantitative research is an empirical research method grounded in numerically measurable data, qualitative research focuses on an often hermeneutical interpretation of subjective texts. These subjective texts could range from ethnographic observation, interviews (structured, semi-structured, or unstructured), free text answers in surveys, oral histories, historical transcripts (such as official meetings, or speeches), discourse analysis, or participant observations.[95] Those different forms of texts are either created by the researcher, for instance by conducting interviews or surveys among the interested research units themselves, or assembled from existing texts, for instance records of debates of newspapers.[96] The respective number of texts depends on the research question, that means a more specific question requires more specific information. In general, the gathered texts should at least constitute a representative sample to be able to guarantee validity, reliability, and objectivity of the resulting analysis. After a significant amount of text data is gathered, the texts will be analyzed in a structured and previously identified method to identify particular patterns, arguments, or frames in the respective texts. Qualitative research methods enable a researcher to understand why a phenomenon is occurring.[97] This can be contrasted with quantitative based investigations that are more focused on establishing what is occurring. The value of qualitative studies as a supplement to doctrinal analysis is how it permits an understanding of why certain elements of doctrinal law have been developed, or how they play out when implemented on the ground.[98]

IV. Quantitative Research Methods edit

Quantitative research methods have been an essential element of the so-called empirical turn in international legal scholarship, which combines legal methodology with tools and techniques from the social sciences.[99] Quantitative methods are based on numerical data, which generally means large numbers of texts or codes in international law, for instance from legislation, treaties or jurisprudence.[100] The data is then analyzed to identify the conditions under which international law is formed and has effects. Hence, a major challenge of quantitative methods concerns the collection of data, either manually or through computational methods. For beginners, it is thus advisable to make use of existing databases, either from international courts, international organizations, or academic research projects. Quantitative research methods can be generally differentiated in four types: First, descriptive research, which aims at identifying patterns and structures in the data without necessarily having a hypothesis before data collection. Secondly, correlation-aimed research, which wants to determine the extent of a relationship between two or more variables using statistical data. Thirdly, causality-focused research that attempts to establish cause-effect relationships among the variables in the data. Fourthly, experimental research investigates the cause-effect relationship in a study situation in which an effort is made to control for all other variables except one. Those four types are not mutually exclusive but can be combined, however, they come with specific requirements for data collection, for instance most quantitative studies require at least a medium-N or large-N (N means the number of research units) sample size. Hence, in international law, quantitative methods have so far been applied to the jurisprudence of international courts,[101] as well as legal regimes which feature a large number of legal instruments such as international human rights[102] or investment law.[103]

D. Pitfalls and Challenges edit

Interdisciplinary research is exciting and illuminating, it demonstrates that a researcher can look beyond the traditional legal methods and, in the best case, find answers that help to understand, analyze, and, in certain instances, improve the functioning of international law. However, interdisciplinary research comes also with unexpected challenges. In the following section, we provide practical recommendations to overcome the most common pitfalls.

I. Finding the Right Method for Your Research Question edit

Doctrinal law scholars are notoriously bad at articulating their methodology, often stating “I just read some stuff and then I analyse it.”[104] In this dominantly doctrinal-positivist academic culture, interdisciplinary research in law is referred to under the broad umbrella of “socio-legal” research.[105] One of the biggest hurdles faced by this broad and inclusive categorisation research is that it doesn’t provide clarity on what it is the interdisciplinary research is doing and which particular method should be applied. The range of methods that are available to interdisciplinary scholars are extensive and cannot be covered here in full.[106] Interdisciplinary methods constitute a broad and diverse toolbox that can be applied to positivist as well as critical understandings of international law. The key to understanding what method is most appropriate for the question you are trying to address in your research is familiarizing yourself with the other discipline you are working with and the methods that are employed within that space. No method is inherently correct or incorrect for a particular research question – the key lies in how you justify both the theory and method you are bringing to your question and articulating why that method is being used and not a different one.[107] That said, one should be wary of scholarship that defines itself by the method rather than the research question.

II. Selection Bias edit

Selection bias is when, deliberately or accidentally, you use a dataset that is incomplete. It renders your argument void, because the data you used was not reliable or meaningful. Data-driven research must include all data, even data that may undercut the primary thesis, because otherwise it is incomplete and therefore is without value. This often goes against many legal researchers' instincts, because legal training still largely focuses on advocacy. In advocacy, focusing on the evidence that support your argument is fully appropriate and necessary. However, in data-driven research, it is critical to show that your data includes and accounts for cases that diverge from the pattern you are trying to demonstrate.[108] This also reflects a wider shift needed when moving from a legal mindset to a data mindset: lawyers think in terms of absolute rules; data-driven research seeks to demonstrate tendencies.

III. Understanding External Data edit

Particularly in interdisciplinary studies in international law, a researcher will use or rely upon an external (usually publicly accessible) data source.[109] Broadly speaking, the data source is considered external if the data was not gathered by the researchers themselves. When using external data sources, it is important to establish the accuracy and integrity of the data, while also acknowledging (or highlighting) any weaknesses that may exist with the dataset. It is also important to justify why the use of an external dataset in this instance is the most appropriate approach to addressing the question at hand. An example of how to manage these questions can be found in the second part of Chapter 2 of Paige’s study on UN Security Council decision making in relation to threat to the peace.[110]

IV. Personal Constraints (Time, Skills, Resources) edit

When setting out to do an interdisciplinary, data driven study in international law one of the first things to consider at the planning stage of the project is what personal constraints will exist and how that will impact your ability to produce a complete study. The most significant factor when considering personal constraints is time. In a 2013 seminar on doing interdisciplinary research, renowned sociologist of law Angela Melville noted that the best approach to assessing time constraints in empirical research was to generate a realistic timeline and then triple it.[111] Her justification for this was that no planning ever accounts for all the unexpected hurdles that crop up when doing empirical work. The other main constraint to consider is access: Will you have access to the dataset? Will you have access to sufficient interview participants to have a complete dataset? Will you have access to enough resources to continue data gathering until you have reached data saturation? Will you physically be able to get access to the relevant participants themselves? All of these questions need to be considered in the research design phase, and all of the complications that arise around these issues are why any empirical work will take three times longer than you expect.

V. Do’s and Don’ts of Publishing Interdisciplinary Scholarship edit

There are a significant number of dos and don’ts when it comes to doing data driven interdisciplinary research in international law. In summary, you should be open about the biases you bring to the project and how they have impacted your analysis. You do this for the sake of transparency, and to allow the reader to read your analysis in light of your biases. You should not allow your biases to shape what data gets included or excluded from your study (see the above section on selection bias). You should also not allow your biases to dictate how you read the data – they may always inform your analysis but they should not drive your analysis; good researchers are open to their hypothesis being proven wrong by the data. You should make clear why the method you are using is the most appropriate one to address the research question you have in front of you. You should not shape your research question to fit it in to a preferred methodology – research methodologies are simply tools in a researcher's toolbox and you should choose the right one for the project, not choose the project for the tool. Do acknowledge any weaknesses that exist within your dataset, and factor that into your analysis of the dataset. Do not try and explain away or mitigate those weaknesses, rather you should highlight how they demonstrate and need more data gathering and studying on an issue.

Further Readings edit

Conclusion edit

  • Learning: Interdisciplinary research in international law is a rewarding pursuit, but to be done well it requires a strong grounding in international law and the other discipline which you are using for your research. The learning process is never finished.
  • Applying: For legal scholars, interdisciplinary perspectives to international law often require to learn not only about new methods and conceptual tools but also to adopt different epistemologies. This means, interdisciplinary research changes how one must structure the research, writing, and publication process.
  • Experimenting: International legal scholarship has adopted a broad variety of interdisciplinary research, some dominant strands have been summarized in this chapter, which provide a multitude of entry points to look at international law from an interdisciplinary perspective. They are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, this variety is an open invitation to young scholars to experiment with interdisciplinary research, to try out new and unfamiliar research questions, methods, and approaches in order to broaden our understanding of international law. There is something for everyone!

Table of Contents edit

Back to home page

Part I - History, Theory, and Methods

Part II - General International Law

Part III - Specialized Fields

Footnotes edit

  1. Nikolas M. Rajkovic, 'Interdisciplinarity' in Jean d’Aspremont and Sahib Singh (eds), Concepts for International Law (Edward Elgar 2019) 490, 490.
  2. See also Moti Nissani, 'Fruits, Salads, and Smoothies: A Working Definition of Interdisciplinarity' (1995) 29 Journal of Educational Thought 121.
  3. Outi Korhonen, 'From interdisciplinary to x-disciplinary methodology of international law' in Rossana Deplano and Nicholas Tsagourias (eds), Research Methods in International Law (Edward Elgar 2021) 345.
  4. Martti Koskenniemi, 'Letter to the Editors of the Symposium' (1999) 93 American Journal of International Law 351.
  5. Jan Klabbers, 'The Relative Autonomy of International Law or the Forgotten Politics of Interdisciplinarity' (2004) 1 Journal of International Law and International Relations 35.
  6. Outi Korhonen, 'Within and Beyond Interdisciplinarity in International Law and Human Rights' (2017) 28 European Journal of International Law 625.
  7. On the limits and possibilities of interdisciplinarity, see also Sanne Taekema and Bart van Klink, 'On the Border: Limits and Possibilities of Interdisciplinary Research' in Bart van Klink and Sanne Taekema (eds.), Law and Method. Interdisciplinary Research into Law (Mohr Siebeck 2011) 7.
  8. Arnulf Becker Lorca, Mestizo International Law: A Global Intellectual History 1842–1933 (CUP 2015).
  9. James Crawford, The Creation of States in International Law (2nd ed, OUP 2006).
  10. Martti Koskenniemi, The Gentle Civilizer of Nations: The Rise and Fall of International Law 1870–1960 (CUP 2001).
  11. Anne Orford, International Law and the Politics of History (CUP 2021).
  12. Bret Boyce, ‘Originalism and the Fourteenth Amendment’ (1998) 88 Wake Forest Law Review 909, 915.
  13. For recent examples, see Cristian Van Eijk, ‘Unstealing the Sky: Third World Equity in the Orbital Commons’ (2022) 47 Air and Space Law 25; Mark Chadwick, Piracy and the Origins of Universal Jurisdiction: On Stranger Tides? (Brill/Nijhoff 2019); Tamsin Paige, ‘Piracy and Universal Jurisdiction’ (2013) 12 Macquarie Law Journal 131.
  14. Antony Anghie, Imperialism, Sovereignty and the Making of International Law (CUP 2005).
  15. Ntina Tzouvala, Capitalism As Civilisation: A History of International Law (CUP 2020).
  16. Juan Pablo Scarfi,The Hidden History of International Law in the Americas: Empire and Legal Networks (OUP 2017).
  17. James Thuo Gathii, 'Africa' in Bardo Fassbender and Anne Peters (eds) The Oxford Handbook of the History of International Law (OUP 2015) 943.
  18. Lauri Mälksoo, Russian Approaches to International Law (OUP 2015).
  19. Onuma Yasuaki, 'When Was the Law of International Society Born - An Inquiry of the History of International Law from an Intercivilizational Perspective' (2000) Journal of the History of International Law 1.
  20. Tamsin Phillipa Paige, Petulant and Contrary: Approaches by the Permanent Five Members of the UN Security Council to the Concept of ‘threat to the Peace’ under Article 39 of the UN Charter (Brill/Nijhoff 2019) 33.
  21. Tamsin Phillipa Paige, ‘Let’s Talk About [Sociology], Baby … Let’s Talk About All the Good Things and the Bad Things That May Be’ (Opinio Juris, 17 July 2020).
  22. Jean d'Aspremont, Tarcisio Gazzini, André Nollkaemper, and Wouter Werner (eds), International Law as a Profession (CUP 2017).
  23. Mikael Rask Madsen, 'From Cold War Instrument to Supreme European Court: The European Court of Human Rights at the Crossroads of International and National Law and Politics: The European Court of Human Rights' (2007) 32 Law & Social Inquiry 137.
  24. Salvatore Caserta and Mikael Rask Madsen, 'The situated and bounded rationality of international courts: A structuralist approach to international adjudicative practices' (2022) 35 Leiden Journal of International Law 931.
  25. Moshe Hirsch, 'The Sociology of International Economic Law: Sociological Analysis of the Regulation of Regional Agreements in the World Trading System' (2008) 19 European Journal of International Law 277.
  26. Mikkel Jarle Christensen, 'The Professional Market of International Criminal Justice: Divisions of Labour and Patterns of Elite Reproduction' (2021) 19 Journal of International Criminal Justice 783.
  27. Emilie M. Hafner-Burton, David G. Victor and Yonatan Lupu, 'Political Science Research on International Law: The State of the Field' (2012) 106 American Journal of International Law 47.
  28. See for instance, Alpheus Henry Snow, 'International Law and Political Science' (1913) 7 American Journal of International Law 315.
  29. For an interdisciplinary international law textbook, see Basak Cali (ed), International Law for International Relations (OUP 2009).
  30. Beth Simmons, 'International Law and International Relations' in Gregory A. Caldeira, R. Daniel Kelemen, and Keith E. Whittington (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Law and Politics (OUP 2008).
  31. Jeffrey L. Dunoff and Mark A. Pollack, 'International Law and International Relations. Introducing an Interdisciplinary Dialogue' in: Jeffrey L. Dunoff and Mark A. Pollack (eds), Interdisciplinary Perspectives on International Law and International Relations. The State of the Art (CUP 2013) 3.
  32. Kenneth W. Abbott, 'Modem International Relations Theory: A Prospectus for International Lawyers' (1989) 14 Yale Journal of International Law 335.
  33. Robert O. Keohane, 'International Relations and International Law: Two Optics' (1997) 38 Harvard International Law Journal 487.
  34. Anne-Marie Slaughter, Andrew S. Tulumello and Stepan Wood, 'International Law and International Relations Theory: A New Generation of Interdisciplinary Scholarship' (1998) 92 American Journal of International Law 367.
  35. Beth A. Simmons, 'Compliance with International Agreements' (1998) 1 The Annual Review of Political Science 75.
  36. Jutta Brunnee and Stephen J. Toope, Legitimacy and Legality in International Law. An Interactional Account (CUP 2013).
  37. Martha Finnemore and Kathryn Sikkink, 'International Norm Dynamics and Political Change' (1998) 52 International Organization 887.
  38. Antje Wiener, Contestation and Constitution of Norms in Global International Relations (CUP 2018).
  39. Karen Alter, The New Terrain of International Law: Courts, Politics, Rights (Princeton University Press, 2014).
  40. China Miéville, The City & the City (Macmillan 2009).
  41. Bernhard Schlink, The Reader (Vintage International 1995).
  42. See for instance, Kenneth Anderson, ‘Space Law Update - US Won’t Build Death Star, Also Does Not Support Blowing Up Planets’ (Opinio Juris, 12 January 2013); Australian Red Cross, ‘Game of Thrones: Violations of and Compliance with International Humanitarian Law’ (Australian Red Cross 2019); Stephen Bainbridge, ‘Was the Alderaan Incident Consistent with Just War Theory’ (, 6 June 2005); Kevin Jon Heller, ‘The Problem with “Crossing Lines”’ (Opinio Juris, 25 June 2013).
  43. Tamsin Phillipa Paige, ‘Zombies as an Allegory for Terrorism: Understanding the Social Impact of Post-9/11 Security Theatre and the Existential Threat of Terrorism Through the Work of Mira Grant’ (2021) 33 Law and Literature 119.
  44. Mark Bould and China Miéville (eds), Red Planets: Marxism and Science Fiction (Pluto Press 2009).
  45. Christopher Gevers, 'International law, literature and worldmaking' in Shane Chalmers and Sundhya Pahuja (eds), Routledge Handbook of International Law and the Humanities (Routledge 2021).
  46. See for instance, the contributions in the "International Law and Popular Culture Symposium at Opinio Juris in 2021 and 2022.
  47. Jeffrey L. Dunoff and Joel P. Trachtman, 'Economic Analysis of International Law' (1999) 24 Yale Journal of International Law 1.
  48. Herbert Hovenkamp, 'Law and Economics in the United States: A Brief Historical Survey' (1995) 19 Cambridge Journal of Economics 331; George L. Priest, The Rise of Law and Economics. An Intellectual History (Routledge 2020).
  49. Andrew T. Guzman, How International Law Works: A Rational Choice Theory (OUP 2008); Joel P. Trachtman, The Economic Structure of International Law (Harvard University Press 2008)
  50. Andrew Guzman and Alan O'Neil Sykes, 'Economics of International Law' in Francesco Parisi (ed), The Oxford Handbook of Law and Economics: Volume 3: Public Law and Legal Institutions (OUP 2017).
  51. Anne van Aaken, Christoph Engel, and Tom Ginsburg, 'Public International Law and Economics. Symposium Introduction' (2008) 1 University of Illinois Law Review 1.
  52. Kenneth W. Abbott and Duncan Snidal, 'Hard and Soft Law in International Governance' (2000) 54 International Organization 421.
  53. Laurence R. Heifer, 'Exiting Treaties' (2005) 91 Virginia Law Review 1579.
  54. Andrew T. Guzman, 'International Tribunals: A Rational Choice Analysis' (2008) 157 University of Pennsylvania Law Review 171.
  55. Jack L. Goldsmith and Eric A. Posner, 'A Theory of Customary International Law' (1999) 66 University of Chicago Law Review 1113.
  56. Andrew Guzman, How International Law Works: A Rational Choice Theory (OUP 2008).
  57. Alberta Fabbricotti (ed), The Political Economy of International Law: A European Perspective (Edward Elgar 2016). However, some doubt whether international law and political economy scholarship is actually interdisciplinary (using methods, concepts, and approaches from the discipline of political economy) but rather a form of critical analysis of international (economic) law, see John Haskell and Akbar Rasulov, 'International Law and the Turn to Political Economy' (2018) 31 Leiden Journal of International Law 243.
  58. Katharina Pistor, The Code of Capital: How the Law Creates Wealth and Inequality (Princeton University Press 2019).
  59. Nina Tzouvala, 'International Law and (the Critique of) Political Economy' (2022) 121 South Atlantic Quarterly 297.
  60. David Kennedy, 'Law and the Political Economy of the World' (2013) 26 Leiden Journal of International Law 7.
  61. a b Tomer Broude, 'Behavioral International Law' (2015) 163 University of Pennsylvania Law Review 1099. Invalid <ref> tag; name ":2" defined multiple times with different content
  62. Anne van Aaken and Tomer Broude, 'The Psychology of International Law: An Introduction' (2019) 30 European Journal of International Law 1225.
  63. Anne van Aaken, 'Behavioral International Law and Economics' (2014) 55 Harvard Journal of International Law 421.
  64. Jean Galbraith, 'Treaty Options: Towards a Behavioral Understanding of Treaty Design' (2013) 53 Virginia Journal of International Law 309.
  65. Anne van Aaken, 'The Cognitive Psychology of Rules of Interpretation in International Law' (2021) 115 AJIL Unbound 258.
  66. Lauge N. Skovgaard and Emma Aisbett, 'When the claim hits: bilateral investment treaties and bounded rational learning' (2013) 65 World Politics 273.
  67. Anne van Aaken, 'Experimental Insights for International Legal Theory' (2019) 30 European Journal of International Law 1237.
  68. Tomer Broude and Inbar Levy, 'Outcome Bias and Expertise in Investigations under International Humanitarian Law' (2019) 30 European Journal of International Law 1303.
  69. Anne van Aaken and Betül Simsek, 'Rewarding in International Law' (2021) 115 American Journal of International Law 195.
  70. Gerhard Anders, 'Anthropology and International Law' Oxford Bibliographies (OUP 2021); Annelise Rise, 'Introduction to the Symposium on The Anthropology of International Law' (2021) 115 AJIL Unbound 268.
  71. Sally Engle Merry, 'Anthropology and International Law' (2006) 35 Annual Review of Anthropology 99.
  72. Miia Halme-Tuomisaari, 'Toward a Lasting Anthropology of International Law/Governance' (2016) 27 European Journal of International Law 235.
  73. Sally Engle Merry, 'Anthropology, Law, and Transnational Processes' (1992) 21 Annual Review of Anthropology 357.
  74. Ricarda Rösch, 'Learning from anthropology. Realizing a critical race approach to (international) law' Voelkerrechtsblog (19 February 2018).
  75. Sally Engle Merry, 'Transnational Human Rights and Local Activism: Mapping the Middle' (2006) 108 American Anthropologist 38; Karen Engle, 'From Skepticism to Embrace: Human Rights and the American Anthropological Association from 1947-1999' (2001) 23 Human Rights Quarterly 536.
  76. Boaventura de Sousa Santos and César A. Rodriguez-Garavito (eds), Law and Globalization from Below: Towards a Cosmopolitan Legality (CUP 2005).
  77. Paulo Ilich Bacca, 'Indigenizing International Law, Part 1: Learning to Learn from Below' (Blog of the APA, 23 August 2019).
  78. Yves Dezalay and Bryant Garth (eds), Lawyers and the Construction of Transnational Justice (Routledge 2012).
  79. Richard Ashby Wilson, Writing History in International Criminal Trials (CUP 2012).
  80. Ulf Linderfalk, 'Introduction: Language and International Law' (2017) 86 Nordic Journal of International Law 119.
  81. Clara Chapdelaine-Feliciati, 'The semiotic puzzle: Authentic languages & international law' (2020) 5 International Journal of Legal Discourse 317.
  82. Markus Beham, 'Lost in translation. Varying German-language versions of international treaties and documents' (Voelkerrechtsblog, 17 June 2019); Jean d’Aspremont, ‘International Law, Universality, and the Dream of Disrupting from the Centre’ (2018) 7 ESIL Reflections 1; Jacqueline Mowbray, 'The future of international law: shaped by English' (Voelkerrechtsblog, 18 June 2014).
  83. Benedikt Pirker and Jennifer Smolka, 'International Law and Linguistics: Pieces of an Interdisciplinary Puzzle' (2020) 11 Journal of International Dispute Settlement 501.
  84. Ingo Venzke, How Interpretation Makes International Law. On Semantic Change and Normative Twists (OUP 2012).
  85. See for instance, Antje Wiener and Philip Liste, 'Lost Without Translation? Cross-Referencing and a New Global Community of Courts' (2014) 21 Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies 263; Silvia Steininger, 'What's Human Rights Got To Do With It? An Empirical Analysis of Human Rights References in Investment Arbitration' (2018) 31 Leiden Journal of International Law 33; Wayne Sandholtz, 'Human rights courts and global constitutionalism: Coordination through judicial dialogue' (2021) 10 Global Constitutionalism 439.
  86. Wolfgang Alschner and Damien Charlotin, 'The Growing Complexity of the International Court of Justice’s Self-Citation Network' (2018) 29 European Journal of International Law 83.
  87. Anthea Roberts, Is International Law International Law (OUP 2017).
  88. Justina Uriburu, 'Between Elitist Conversations and Local Clusters: How Should we Address English-centrism in International Law?' (Opinio Juris, 2 November 2020).
  89. See also, Ran Hirschl, 'The Question of Case Selection in Comparative Constitutional Law' (2005) 53 American Journal of Comparative Law 125.
  90. Anthea Roberts, Paul B. Stephan, Pierre-Hugues Verdier, and Mila Versteeg (eds), Comparative International Law (OUP 2018).
  91. Charles Tilly, Big Structures, Large Processes, Huge Comparisons (Russell Sage Foundation 1984).
  92. For an example by the authors, see Tamsin Philippa Paige, Petulant and Contrary: Approaches by the Permanent Five Members of the UN Security Council to the Concept of ‘threat to the peace’ under Article 39 of the UN Charter (Brill/Nijhoff 2019).
  93. Alexis E. Ramsey, Wendy B. Sharer, Barbara L’Eplattenier, and Lisa Mastrangelo, 'Introduction' in ibid (eds), Working in the archives: practical research methods for rhetoric and composition (Southern Illinois University Press 2010) 1.
  94. Jennifer Clary-Lemon, ‘Archival Research Processes: A Case for Material Methods’ (2014) 33 Rhetoric Review 381, 385.
  95. Carl F Auerbach and Louise B Silverstein, Qualitative Data: An Introduction to Coding and Analysis (New York University Press 2003) 3.
  96. For examples of the authors, see Tamsin Philippa Paige, 'The Impact and Effectiveness of UNCLOS on Counter-piracy Operations' (2017) 22 Journal of Conflict & Security Law 97 (based on interviews); Silvia Steininger, 'What's Human Rights Got To Do With It? An Empirical Analysis of Human Rights References in Investment Arbitration' (2018) 31 Leiden Journal of International Law 33 (based on references in investment awards); Tamsin Philippa Paige, 'Zombies as an Allegory for Terrorism: Understanding the Social Impact of Post-9/11 Security Theatre and the Existential Threat of Terrorism through the Work of Mira Grant' (2020) 33 Law & Literature 119 (based on literary texts and an interview); Silvia Steininger, 'Creating loyalty: Communication practices in the European and Inter-American human rights regimes' (2022) 11 Global Constitutionalism 161 (based on interviews).
  97. Roger Cotterrell, Law, Culture and Society: Legal Ideas in the Mirror of Social Theory (Ashgate 2006) 130-131; Moshe Hirsch, ‘The Sociology of International Economic Law: Sociological Analysis of the Regulation of Regional Agreements in the World Trading System’ (2008) 19 European Journal of International Law 277, 280.
  98. Moshe Hirsch, ‘The Sociology of Interntional Law: Invitation to Study International Rules in Their Social Context’ (2005) 55 University of Toronto Law Journal 891, 893; Paige, Petulant and Contrary (n 6) 34.
  99. Gregory Shaffer and Tom Ginsburg, 'The Empirical Turn in International Legal Scholarship' (2012) 106 American Journal of International Law 1.
  100. Wolfgang Alschner, Joost Pauwelyn and Sergio Puig, 'The Data-Driven Future of International Economic Law' (2017) 20 Journal of International Economic Law 217.
  101. Urska Sadl and Henrik Palmer Olsen, 'Can Quantitative Methods Complement Doctrinal Legal Studies? Using Citation Network and Corpus Linguistic Analysis to Understand International Courts' (2017) 30 Leiden Journal of International Law 327.
  102. Kevin L. Cope, Cosette D. Creamer and Mila Versteeg, 'Empirical Studies of Human Rights Law' (2019) 15 Annual Review of Law and Social Science 155.
  103. Daniel Behn, Ole Kristian Fauchald and Malcolm Langford (eds), The Legitimacy of Investment Arbitration. Empirical Perspectives (CUP 2022).
  104. Paige, ‘Let’s Talk About [Sociology], Baby … Let’s Talk About All the Good Things and the Bad Things That May Be’ (n 7).
  105. Dawn Watkins and Mandy Burton, ‘Introduction’ in Dawn Watkins and Mandy Burton (eds), Research methods in law (2nd ed, Routledge 2018) 4.
  106. For a starting point see, Dawn Watkins and Mandy Burton (eds), Research Methods in Law (2nd ed, Routledge 2018); Rossana Deplano and Nikolaos K Tsagourias (eds), Research Methods in International Law: A Handbook (Edward Elgar 2021).
  107. Fiona Cownie and Anthony Bradney, ‘Socio-Legal Studies: A Challenge to the Doctrinal Approach’ in Dawn Watkins and Mandy Burton (eds), Research methods in law (2nd ed, Routledge 2018) 46.
  108. Ian Dobinson and Francis Johns, ‘Legal Research as Qualitative Research’ in Dawn Watkins and Mandy Burton (eds), Research methods in law (2nd ed, Routledge 2018) 34.
  109. For instance, on international courts, the Pluricourts team at the University of Oslo has collected research databases for the most important international judicial bodies, see here The UN also collects links to many international law databases, for instance on diplomatic conferences, peace treaties and case law, see here
  110. Paige, Petulant and Contrary (n 6) 38–42.
  111. Angela Melville, ‘Qualitative Methods’ (Early Career Research Workshop: Socio-legal Scholarship, ANU College of Law, 14 February 2013).