Friday, October 23, 2015

Mégret: Thinking About What International Humanitarian Lawyers 'Do'

Frédéric Mégret (McGill Univ. - Law) has posted Thinking About What International Humanitarian Lawyers 'Do': An Examination of the Laws of War as a Field of Professional Practice (in The Law of International Lawyers, Wouter Werner, Marieke de Hoon, & Alexis Galán Ávila eds., forthcoming). Here's the abstract:
This chapter seeks to "sociologize" Martti Koskenniemi's "From Apology to Utopia" to understand it less as a theoretical critique of law's indeterminacy and more as a description of the "common sense" of international lawyers, constantly called upon to navigate apology and utopia. It does so by invoking Bourdieusian "field analysis" and looking in particular at the laws of war as a semi-autonomous field of socio-legal practice within international law. The chapter looks at the emergence of that field at the intersection of law, humanitarianism and military necessity, and explores how the field both constrains and makes possible various argumentative strategies within it that make the most of the tension between apology and utopia. It seeks to examine the "navigation" of the field from the point of view of individual participants within it seeking to maximize their relative position as part of ongoing struggles for domination but who can ultimately never do so in a way that would undermine the field's claim to relevance. In the conclusion some of the implications are drawn both for our understanding of the "social determinacy" of international law underscored by the resilience of the field, and the inevitable normative circularity and conservatism of the project of the laws of war. Note: This is the unedited version that was originally prepared for a workshop. The final and authoritative version is to be found in the published volume.