Aesthetics of International Law Conference Brings Together Law and Social Sciences

On May 12-13 Central European University (CEU) hosts the Aesthetics of International Law conference, an event in which participants will critically discuss various modes of visualizing international legal processes and institutions, and explore their significance for understanding of the role of international law in different contexts and across different media.

“There tends to be a strong rationalistic assumption about international law and the law in general – that law is objective, neutral and knowable through scientific exercises,” said CEU Assistant Professor Tommaso Soave, who is organizing the conference and serves on the coordinating committee of the European Society of International Law (ESIL) Interest Group on Social Sciences and International Law. He added, “What is often left out are emotional and aesthetic responses; how different actors involved in international law react through their gut feelings and through sensorial perception and experience. This is something that I think is neglected in international legal scholarship and deserves further exploration.”

Organization of the conference is supported by CEU faculty Inga Winkler, Maria-Jose Schmidt-Kessen, Juliana Cesario Alvim Gomez, Markus Petsche and Lorenzo Gasbarri in the Department of Legal Studies; as well as ESIL collaborators Zuzanna Godzimirska (iCourts), Eva van der Zee (University of Hamburg), Ezgi Yildiz (California State University), Moshe Hirsch (Hebrew University of Jerusalem); and CEU staff Anna Javor and Tunde Szabo.

Soave highlighted, “The conference appeals to attendees even beyond the legal department – for example, sociologists, anthropologists and philosophers might be interested in visiting for some of the discussions.” With approximately 30 presenters from around the world, the conference is open to academics of diverse disciplines as well as the public (register here), and features three keynote speakers: Annelise Riles, Professor at Northwestern University, Executive Director of the Roberta Buffett Institute for Global Studies, Associate Provost for Global Affairs, and author of The Network Inside Out; Andrea Bianchi, Professor and Director of Studies at the Geneva Graduate Institute; and Pierre Schlag, University Distinguished Professor and Byron R. White Professor of Law at the University of Colorado Boulder. (Schlag will join online.)

“The basic idea behind the conference was to bring together several experiments that are taking place around the world with visualizing international law,” said Soave. “From literary sensibilities in international law, to artifacts and physical spaces in international law, there are plenty of different interesting projects in this area, but so far there hasn't been one conference that brings such projects and sensibilities under one roof to speak to and mutually provoke one another.”

The co-organizing body, the ESIL, is one of the largest and most active societies that deal with the international legal field, and within the association, the interest group on social sciences and international law seeks to bridge social sciences, in the broadest possible sense, to international legal scholarship. Soave commented, “It was great to establish this collaboration between CEU and ESIL for a variety of reasons and expand the sociology of international law in scholarly work…I hope CEU will be one of the centers where this type of interest gains momentum. The bridge we're trying to establish will be useful to see how international law can serve as a progressive force.”

Visit here to view the program for the Aesthetics of International Law conference May 12-13 and register here to attend in person at CEU or visit here to join online.