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More than a Morbid Quest: obituaries and mapping the invisible college of international lawyers

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Duration: 0:36:16 | Added: 05 Feb 2021
Luíza Leão Soares Pereira, Lecturer in International Law at the University of Sheffield, and Doctoral Candidate at the University of Cambridge, gives a talk for the Public International Law seminar series.

This presentation narrates my experience using obituaries[1] of international lawyers to gain better insights into the international legal profession. My research looks at these unusual sources through three different methodological lenses – quantitative, doctrinal, and critical (broadly construed). Looking at the profession through different lenses yields a richer picture of the same object. Looked at through a quantitative lens, using Social Network Analysis, obituaries unveil professional and personal connections between international lawyers, shared career paths, and avenues whereby ideas may move, beyond single institutions or individual anecdotes.[2] Quantitative methods used in this way also help substantiate critiques about the lack in diversity in the high echelons of the profession. Through a doctrinal and qualitative lens, reading obituaries reveals how individuals have shaped the law in singular stances. Collating these examples shows a pattern that challenges traditional narratives in sources literature that discount the role of individuals in international lawmaking. Through a critical lens, the playful use of obituaries connects us to ‘the inner lives of the people who become international lawyers’[3], reigniting our passion for the discipline, and our belief in the ability to ‘enable us to encounter ambivalence’[4] and practice international law in a way that is ‘enlivening, productive and critically transformative’.[5] Broader lessons about the importance of methodological openness also underpin this exercise.

Luíza Leão Soares Pereira is a Lecturer in International Law at the University of Sheffield, and Doctoral Candidate at the University of Cambridge, both in the UK. Her research focuses on the role of individual members of the international legal profession in the making of international law, using an eclectic methodology. Previously, she undertook her LLB at Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil), and an LLM at the University of Cambridge, where she received the Clive Parry (Overseas) Prize for International Law. She was an intern at the Office of the Prosecutor in the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (Radovan Karadzic Case), and a Pegasus Trust Scholar at Inner Temple.

[1] More specifically, the obituaries published since 1920 in the British Yearbook of International Law.

[2] Luiza Leao Soares Pereira and Niccolò Ridi, ‘Mapping the “Invisible College of International Lawyers” through Obituaries’ Leiden Journal of International Law (Forthcoming).

[3] Isobel Roele, ‘The Making of International Lawyers: Winnicott’s Transitional Objects’ in Jessie Hohmann and Daniel Joyce (eds), International Law’s Objects (OUP 2018) 73.

[4] Isobel Roele, ‘Policing Critique’ (2018) 81 701, 721.

[5] Anne Orford, ‘International Law and the Limits of History’, The Law of International Lawyers: Reading Martti Koskenniemi (Forthcoming) (2015) 8.

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