Prestigious grants awarded to two faculty researchers – University of Copenhagen

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13 September 2018

Prestigious grants awarded to two faculty researchers

For the first time, the European Research Council has awarded Starting Grants to the Faculty of Law. Mikkel Jarle Christensen and Jan Komárek have both been awarded the prestigious Starting Grant that is given to younger, talented researchers to establish their own research group and conduct pioneering research.

Both researchers are affiliated with the Danish National Research Foundation’s Centre of Excellence for International Courts (iCourts), hosted by the Faculty of Law. Each researcher will receive around DKK 11.2 million to build their research group.

Criminal justice beyond the courts

For Associate Professor Mikkel Jarle Christensen the grant enables him to create a new research group and conduct a collective, critical and multi-disciplinary study of the “sites of justice” active in the fight against international crimes. The project called The Global Sites of International Criminal Justice (JustSites) looks beyond courts to investigate the larger formation of “sites” such as localities where evidence of international crimes is collected, private law firms, national war crimes units, NGOs, academic research centers, international criminal courts and other sites that collectively structure and give direction to international criminal justice. Thus, the project will provide a pioneering perspective on how these different “sites of justice” affect the creation and impact of international criminal law.

Mikkel Jarle Christensen explains:

“The project will investigate how justice sites collaborate and compete to create the phenomenon that is international criminal justice. By going beyond studies of the courts, the project will contribute the first systematic and empirical analysis of how the constellation of sites – and the power relations between them – affect the global response to mass atrocities”.

Stakeholders will benefit from new insights

By developing and using new theoretical and methodological tools, JustSites will build a multi-disciplinary research group to critically analyze the relation between justice sites.

“This will allow also non-scientists to understand how this form of justice actually works by laying bare who is involved and how power relations between sites and actors structure action and impact. As such, the project has potential impact also for stakeholders in international criminal justice who can use its insights to recalibrate their engagement with international criminal justice”, says Mikkel Jarle Christensen.

Mapping out European Constitutional imaginaries

The second of the Faculty’s two Starting Grants is awarded to Professor Jan Komárek to render possible his study on EU constitutional law. In his research project, European Constitutional Imaginaries: Utopias, Ideologies and the Other, Jan Komárek will investigate how different imaginaries of the EU constitution have been construed by legal scholars and public intellectuals. Such imaginaries represent both utopias providing an aspiration for the polity and ideologies concealing various structures of power and domination.

“We, as a scholarly community, have not been reflexive of what we have been doing in the last twenty or so years. Historians and sociologists provided illuminating studies in this respect, but it is time for us, lawyers, to tell our own story”, says Jan Komárek.

New agenda for EU constitutional law scholarship

By focusing both on a transnational level and that of different EU member states, the Starting Grant enables Jan Komárek and his new research group to set a new agenda for EU constitutional law scholarship.

“There is no intellectual history of EU constitutionalism written yet. Our project will be first to explore it”, Jan Komárek points out as one of the novelties of the project.

The findings will provide a path-breaking insight in the very idea of constitutional imaginary, with its dual character of utopia and ideology, and demonstrate how constitutional lawyers, especially academics and other “second-hand dealers in ideas”, influence the shape of the integration project. Thus, the research project will be relevant to anybody concerned with European Integration and its present condition – either on the side of its supporters or opponents. 

ERC grants will contribute to research of highest quality

The Faculty is proud to host the very first ERC grantees the history of the Faculty:

“With these two prestigious grants our Faculty is reaching new heights when it comes to our ability to create and fund legal research projects at the highest scientific level”, says Henrik Palmer Olsen, Associate Dean for Research.

“Both projects has all the qualities that is needed to achieve research excellence: They address a topic of high societal relevance; they take an approach to research that is both comprehensive and original; they set out to produce new knowledge that is relevant for a number of stakeholders and thereby create the basis for societal impact of the research. The grants are important to the Faculty, not only because the projects will contribute importantly towards our ability to produce new original and relevant research of high quality but also because it further confirms that our Faculty is one of the best legal research communities in Europe”, he says.

Read more about ERC starting grants