In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section New Approaches to International Law

  • Introduction
  • New Approaches and Method
  • Critical Lawyering
  • The Role of History
  • Intellectual Histories
  • (Post-)Colonialism
  • Sovereignty
  • Human and People’s Rights
  • Gender
  • Race
  • Law and War
  • International Criminal Justice
  • International Economic Law
  • Law and Development
  • Global Governance
  • Marx(ism) and International Law

Related Articles Expand or collapse the "related articles" sectionabout

Forthcoming Articles Expand or collapse the "forthcoming articles" section


International Law New Approaches to International Law
Thomas Skouteris
  • LAST REVIEWED: 12 April 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 March 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199796953-0012


New Approaches to International Law captions scholarly work that has become known under numerous rubrics, such as Critical Legal Studies, New Approaches to International Law, Newstream International Law, Feminist Approaches, Third World Approaches to International Law, Postcolonial Legal Studies, New Approaches to International Economic Law, Critical Race Theory, and more. New Approaches work does not easily fit within traditional classifications. Although discursive or other homologies among authors listed in this article could be discerned, there is no single ideology or methodology that unifies New Approaches work, better characterized by pluralistic politics and eclecticism. One unifying factor is the common desire to rethink the foundations of international law and create space for emancipatory politics, while responding to recent trends in economic, political, and social theory. Far from forming a coherent movement, this work should be seen more as a professional project, held together by a sense of belonging or recognition experienced by some of the participants. Group identity was more important during the late 1980s and until the symbolic creation and then dissolution of the New Approaches movement in 1997 (for example, “Fin de NAIL: A Celebration,” a conference at Harvard Law School in May 1997). Thereafter, New Approaches work has proliferated and diversified, reluctant to accept permanent affiliations. Its sociology has also become immensely more complex. A second generation of critical scholars emerged at the “center” and at the “periphery” of international law, socializing in vibrant international networks. In the meantime, first-generation figures received worldwide recognition and occupy leadership positions. The scope, aims, and objectives have also diversified to the extent that any effort to reduce New Approaches to a canon would be self-defeating. This article merely aims to provide a gateway to some characteristic strands of New Approaches work. One difficulty was the inherently interdisciplinary nature of the work, which evades (and detests) categorization. Another difficulty was how to represent the different influences of scholars belonging to different disciplinary generations. Emblematic figures of the movement are inevitably overrepresented on account of the volume and the seminal nature of their work. Younger scholars are represented with fewer entries per author but in larger numbers, accounting for today’s diversity in style and thematic orientation. Omissions should therefore be understood not as exclusions but as an inherent limitation of the project.


This section focuses on seminal New Approaches scholarship, meaning work that captures a shared understanding among New Approaches scholars about what constitutes the common intellectual foundation of the movement. The publications listed here originate mostly in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the first major contributions made their appearance. Entries come from general public international law, legal philosophy, legal sociology, gender and identity, or postcolonial studies. One common denominator in this early work is the attempt to stage a comprehensive critique of international law as a whole. We see work that reassesses the most foundational doctrines and assumptions of the discipline, to discern “grammars,” “structures,” or the (gender, colonial, or other) bias of the discipline in its entirety. A second common denominator is the deliberate use of method and epistemology. Authors choose to engage in methodological debates and engage in rigid epistemology in order to emphatically situate themselves in relation to the traditional approaches and thus clearly delineate the disciplinary space in which they operate. The relentless structuralist technique of Kennedy 1987 and Koskenniemi 2009(both cited under Monographs) proves ex post facto to be catalytic for the methodological credibility of their intervention. This early and overt methodological alignment with critical theory, structuralism, post-structuralism, and deconstruction gave way toward the end of the 1990s to a much richer repertoire of approaches and postures toward the law. In this sense, the works listed below are necessary starting points for our attempt to survey the field as a whole.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.