Introducing the Symposium on Feminist Theory and International Law: Posthuman Perspectives by Emily Jones
Emily Jones is known in the international law research community as a co-host of the Essex Public International Law lecture series. She, herself a critical international law scholar, initiated this series together with doctrinal legal scholar Meagan Wong to showcase the universe of international law scholarship in all of its diversity. The series emphasizes the need to respect and engage with research even if it differs from one’s own methodological, theoretical, and ideological sensitivities. This is a message that we here at Völkerrechtsblog fully support, which is why it is all the more a pleasure to be hosting this symposium on Dr. Jones’ first monograph Feminist Theory and International Law: Posthuman Perspectives (Routledge 2023). For the duration of this symposium, the publisher has generously agreed to make the introduction and Chapter 3 of the book available for open access.
To show how feminist approaches can be used to analyze all areas of international law beyond those conventionally thought of as ‘women’s issues’, the book applies posthuman feminist theory to examine military technologies, international environmental law, and modes of legal personality in international law. As an interdisciplinary study, her work draws on, inter alia, queer and feminist theories, postcolonial and critical race theory, computer science, critical disability studies, marine biology, and Indigenous onto-epistemologies. Above all, it further explores the field of posthumanism for international law in an endeavor to bridge the theory and practice divide.
We asked the contributors to this symposium to critically engage with the various chapters of this book. Starting with Chapter 1 (International Law and the Nonhuman), Pedro Martínez Esponda questions whether Jones is right in ethically equating exclusionary humanism with anthropocentrism, arguing that exclusionary humanism presents a form of systemic corruption, whereas anthropocentrism seems to him a philosophical and political choice whose merits are at least plausible. Covering Chapter 2 (Human and Machine), Fleur Johns cautions that the instrumentalization of posthuman feminism to challenge prevailing legal debates around autonomous weapons risks reinstating the human/nonhuman hierarchy. Maria Elander engages with Chapter 3 (Regulating Military Technologies) and Jones’ discussion of the (false) binary of resistance and compliance that feminist engagement with established international legal regimes faces, and her invitation to “stay with the trouble” as suggested by Donna Haraway instead of leaning into unhelpful dichotomies. Sanskriti Sanghi finds herself “tantalized” by the use of theory in Jones’ Chapter 4 on International Environmental Law (IEL). While she wonders about the realism of the future of IEL envisioned by Jones, she agrees with Jones’ approach towards interrogating and carefully selecting the bodies of theory to be used in this reimagining. Engaging with Chapter 5 (The Subjectivity of Matter), Usha Natarajan reflects on how a posthumanist feminist approach relates to epistemologies from the Global South, which seek to disrupt international law’s placing of the human above nature, rather than within it. To conclude, Anastasia Hammerschmied and Amelie Herzog situate Jones’ posthuman feminist approach in the history of feminist approaches to international law. Our symposium will conclude with Jones’ reflections on the stakes of a posthuman feminist approach in the broader context of the urgent challenges that international law faces.
We are grateful to all contributors for their thoughtful contributions, to Jones for accepting our invitation to discuss her book on our blog, and to Routledge for supporting our open-access efforts and permitting all of our readers to access parts of this book free of cost until 31 July 2023.
Dr. Isabel Lischewski is a Post-Doctoral Research Assistant with Prof. Dr. Nora Markard at WWU Münster. Her research interests lie in global governance, critical theory, and access to justice. She is an editor-in-chief at Völkerrechtsblog.