Transnational law & Africa in globalization

Dr. Sara Dezalay

My research deploys an approach that emphasizes the ‘interconnectedness’ (to use Sanjay Subrahmanyam’s concept) of the international and national dimensions of legal globalization. This research contributes to the Cluster’s focus by emphasizing how current legal transformations build out of longer trends and interconnections between international and national spaces. For this purpose, it connects multiple and complementary scales of analysis to explore the way contests between human rights, politics and economics are translated into legal disputes and institutional developments. I adopt a micro-level qualitative methodology, focused on professional practices and biographical trajectories, to trace the production and circulation of knowledge across different transnational and national levels. It is organized around three main empirical foci:

(1) From the fragmentation of international law to connected transnational legal orders

This research traces circulations and cross-pollination dynamics between transnational practices of conflict management variously institutionalized as state adjudication, commercial and investment arbitration and human rights justice. It puts the agents invested in international justice and their practices at the forefront: its cue is that far from being a side phenomenon, the professional assets accumulated collectively by these agents contribute to shaping the space of international justice, both in terms of its potential markets and its social credibility.

See: Sara Dezalay, ‘Professionals of international justice. From the shadow of state diplomacy to the pull of the market of arbitration’ (With the contribution of Yves Dezalay) (forthcoming) in A. Nollkaemper, J. d’Aspremont, Wouter Werner and T. Gazzini (eds.), International Law as a Profession (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).

(2) The authority of international justice: contests and institutional convergence

This aspect of my work explores the debated unevenness of international justice, and the variable authority of regimes and institutions of international dispute settlement. I connect the revival of international justice from the 1990s to parallel and earlier developments in national fields of power and in transformations of policy expertise on the state, the role of law in development and international practices of intervention.

See: Sara Dezalay, Ron Levi and John Hagan (2016) ‘International Courts in Atypical Political Environments: The Interplay of Prosecutorial Strategy, Evidence, and Court Authority in International Criminal Law’, in Karen J. Alter, Laurence R. Helfer and Michael Rask Madsen (eds.), International courts in their social and political context, 78 Law and Contemporary Problems 4.

(3) Africa as a new frontier? Lawyers, economic shifts and global reconfigurations of political authority

This research explores the roles played by lawyers historically in the formation of the state and as brokers of globalization. It focuses specifically on the case of Burundi. Its aim, more broadly, is to further knowledge and policy networks on the transformation of the position of Africa in globalization, with a specific focus on the transformation of corporate legal markets in Africa.

See: Sara Dezalay (ed., with the collaboration of George Karekwaivanane) (2015) Juristes, Faiseurs d’État, Politique africaine, 138.


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