Feminist Engagement with International Law
“Feminist analysis is like friendship: an ongoing process of deepening complexity, interactive, contradictory, insightful, emotional, enlightening, challenging, conflicting”, Nancy O. Dowd wrote in her introduction to Feminist Legal Theory: An Anti-essentialist Reader (2003). She was specifically referring to the complex relationship feminist (legal) theory has with itself and its many conflicting claims for representation. Mapping this often ridiculously complicated web of relationships, including both bonds of solidarity and potential mechanisms of exclusion, thus seems to be almost an impossibility even just for one specific discipline. Yet this is precisely what the Research Handbook on Feminist Engagement with International Law, published last year, sets out to do.
While feminist thought has increasingly engaged with international legal issues in the last two decades, the field of international law arguably remains understudied from a feminist perspective. On the other hand, feminist scholars may find it especially difficult to “break into” mainstream legal academia, or, conversely, may self-segregate through voluntary or involuntary mechanisms such as jargon, conference attendance, or publication choices. Some feminist legal texts are well-loved classics within the tribe of feminist scholars but rarely known to the academic community at large, and are hard to just stumble upon due to lack of citation in mainstream publications.
The Handbook strives to bridge at least some of this gap by rounding up a wide variety of authors, including both academics and practitioners, and texts engaging with almost any imaginable facet of international law from a feminist perspective. Even from the outset, its perhaps most impressive contribution can thus be found in making a vivid and up-to-date cross-section of feminist international legal thought readily available to a broad audience. Can it additionally deliver on Dowd’s promise of complexity, meaning, most importantly, anti-essentialism – the rejection of ‘woman’ as a fixed (legal) category?
By using the platform of an online symposium, we hope to critically engage with the “interactive, contradictory, insightful, emotional, enlightening, challenging, conflicting” matter that is feminism in international law well beyond the published blog posts and look forward to input from our readership.