Lunch seminar with Tommaso Soave

“My doctoral thesis explores the social interactions that routinely take place within and around international courts and tribunals and, I argue, have a fundamental impact on the merits of judicial decisions.

Mainstream scholarly efforts in the field of international dispute settlement have traditionally focused on the texts of the judgments, i.e. the most tangible product of the work of courts. Such studies are often limited to technical exegeses of this or that decision, and often start from the dubious premise that international law has an inherent meaning that can be ascertained through 'correct' interpretation, independent of the epistemic categories of the interpreter.

More critical streams of scholarship, by contrast, place the accent on the adjudicators' political preferences and deeply ingrained biases, and tend to see judicial decision-making as a mere wrapping for ideology and power. Ultimately, both views reduce adjudication to an exercise predetermined in its outcome – whether by the alleged objectivity of legal rules or by the all-pervasiveness of political biases.

Through my research, I seek to transcend both narratives to identify the proper spaces of freedom and constraint in international adjudication. In order to do so, I shift the focus of inquiry from the courts' judgments to the invisible processes that lead to the construction of such judgments. The core idea is that judges are not alone in their everyday activity, but are rather part of a dense fabric of social relations.

More precisely, every international court or tribunal is surrounded by a community of professionals who are engaged in a shared enterprise with broadly similar understandings of what they are doing and why. My hypothesis is that the routine practices of these legal communities have a fundamental impact on the epistemic horizon of adjudicators, and shape their decisions to a much greater extent than the substantive law applied or the immediate political preferences of the court. Among other things, community practices are an essential driver of both continuity and change in international dispute settlement, and play a major role in the so-called fragmentation of international law – i.e. the phenomenon by which many issues can be appraised through the prism of multiple specialized regimes.

Although scholars have highlighted the relevance of the communities surrounding international courts and tribunals, there is no comprehensive study of how they are structured, how their participants behave, and how their internal dynamics affect the horizon of international adjudicators. Thus, I set out to analyse these myriad professional interactions and everyday practices that, from the filing of a dispute throughout each decision-making step, lead to the formation of international judicial decisions.”

Registration: For participation in the event please use this registration form no later than 1 March 2017, 11:00.

You are welcome to bring your own lunch bag.