PhD Topics 2020-2021

General description

iCourts 2.0 seeks to explain and make intelligible the relative and often contested power of international courts, institutions and law. While the current resistance to international courts and law is interesting in this regard, we generally encourage projects that more broadly explore the power of international courts in relation to law, politics and society.  

  • The transformation of legal practices by international courts and institutions. For example, how international courts create new cognitive frames, principles and values, and whether or how these innovations change legal practices at the global, regional and national levels;  
  • The impact of international courts and institutions on politics, its processes and outcomes: For example, how different actors make use of ICs – directly and indirectly – and whether and how such actions generate new interests and preferences at the global, regional and national levels;  
  • Changes in society triggered by international courts, institutions and law. For example, how ICs influence state, group and citizen relationships, and whether and how they help to generate new rights, duties and processes at the global, regional and national levels.  
  • For the IMAGINE project, we particularly look for projects interested in interdisciplinary study of how key ideas have influenced EU constitutionalism.   

Individual areas of supervision

Mikael Rask Madsen

Comparative Studies of International Courts

I generally welcome projects which explore the historical and contemporary evolution of international courts, using comparative methods. I am particularly interested in studies that can identify and assess the power of international courts in domestic law, politics and society. Projects can explore specific courts more generally or zoom in on certain substantive or procedural mechanisms of international courts.

The Frontier of Human Rights I: Adjudicating Psychological Forms of Torture

Torture techniques are undergoing chance. They are increasingly clean and cause pain without leaving marks. This has however had the effect that it is also increasingly difficult for lawyers to convey and prove torture claims in court. The international law definition of torture however makes it very clear that both physical and mental pain are included. Nevertheless, human rights courts, ruling on cases involving severe mental pain or suffering, have tended, with some limited exceptions, not to recognize harms which do not involve clear physical signs of violence as torture. I invite applicants who would like to explore 1) why proving and litigating contemporary forms of no-touch torture is such an up-hill battle, and, 2) to propose ways to remedy the current situation.

The Frontier of Human Rights II: Implementing Human Rights Case Law

One of the biggest challenges for many human rights regimes is ensure that the decisions of international courts and commissions are in fact implemented. I welcome studies that explores either specific substantive areas of human rights law or more generally examines the pathways to implementing international decisions and judgments. The courts and commissions in focus can be regional or international and the study can involve the study of one or more domestic systems.

Contact person: Mikael Rask Madsen, email:

Henrik Palmer Olsen

I welcome projects seeking to explore how citizens can be protected against discriminatory outcomes of algorithms used for predictive analytics in public administration and/or the police. The project should focus on discrimination law in a Danish and/or European context, but could include a comparative dimension – for example with US practices in policing and administrative law and could include an inquiry into the use of de-biasing in predictive analytics. The project should investigate how best to halt discriminatory outcomes of decision-making that is based on predictive analytics.

Contact person: Henrik Palmer Olsen, email:

EUPoLex Jean Monnet Chair in EU Law & Politics: Juan A. Mayoral & Shai Dothan

EUPoLex welcomes doctoral projects for the current PhD 2020/21 call that explore the intersection between EU law and Politics, the judicialization of EU affairs and the construction of European judicial governance. The Chair would particularly favor projects, which explore the dynamics of judicial cooperation and the empowerment of courts vis-à-vis other powers (e.g. motivations and strategic considerations of judges when applying the law), legal mobilization (how lawyers and agents of the civil society litigate), and the public support for the national and European judiciaries.

PhD candidates should have a strong interest in applying interdisciplinary approaches and empirical qualitative and/or quantitative methods, such as interviews, survey, experiments, network analysis, statistics, process-tracing, cases studies, among others. Specialization in EU law and knowledge in other disciplines (political science, law & economics, history of European integration, etc.) will be viewed as an advantage. If successful, the aspirant will have the chance to develop and strengthen her/his methodological skills and competences by attending the methodological courses organized under the auspices of the Jean Monnet Chair and the PhD School. 

The applicants will be co-supervised by Associate professors Juan A. Mayoral and Shai Dothan. You might find more information about the Chair and its aims in the following link:

If you are interested in applying, please, do not hesitate to contact: Juan A. Mayoral, email: & Shai Dothan, email: 

Joanna Lam

I welcome projects in the field of international economic law (IEL), including trade and investment relations, as well as international arbitration. In particular, I am glad to offer supervision to projects, which critically examine prospects of multilateralization of IEL dispute resolution, including such phenomena as the crisis of the WTO AB, impact of regional trade and investment initiatives, and the work of UNCITRAL Working Group III on the postulated reform of ISDS.

Other areas of potential supervision include the study of dispute resolution mechanism of the Belt and Road Initiative; proliferation of Special Economic Zones and their relation to international trade law and investment treaty law; and international commercial courts.

Contact person: Joanna Lam, email:

Astrid Kjeldgaard-Pedersen

I welcome projects in general international law as well as in international humanitarian law, international human rights law, and international criminal law. In particular, as a part of the INTERMIL project, I offer supervision of projects engaging with international law as it applies in military operations and in cyberspace.

Contact person: Astrid Kjeldgaard-Pedersen, email:

Shai Dothan

Judicial Strategies, the Normative Justifications for the Intervention of International Courts, and the Impact of International Courts on Society
I welcome suggestions for dissertations that will focus on the behaviour of international courts and the ways they maintain their political position. Such suggestions can focus on actors that interact with international courts as well, such as national courts, governments, Non-Governmental Organizations, and professional lawyers. These suggestions should focus descriptively on the strategic behaviour of international courts and at strategic moves such as backlash, political resistance, and collaboration used by other actors vis-à-vis international courts.

I also welcome suggestions to assess normatively the legitimacy and the potential outcomes of intervention by international courts. These suggestions can assess in which issues or under what conditions international courts are justified in intervening in domestic affairs and in which issues this intervention is illegitimate or would lead to bad results. The analysis can assist in determining the borders of the margin of appreciation, subsidiarity, complementarity, or other doctrines of deference. Finally, I welcome suggestions on the impact that international courts have on society. Are international courts likely to help disadvantaged social groups to improve their position? Are there certain guidelines that can lead to the development of good legal doctrine by international courts?

Contact person: Shai Dothan, email:

Thomas Gammeltoft-Hansen

Empirical approaches to refugee, migration and mobility law. This may cover topics such as: European or Nordic asylum adjudication (see current DATA4ALL project), the interaction between international migration and human rights law, normative evolution in asylum and migration law, the role and impact of international litigation in migration law, and projects focusing on specific mobility regimes (e.g. cruise ships, shipping, international aviation). Interdisciplinary projects are welcome, drawing on e.g. political science, International Relations, sociology, anthropology or data science in addition to law.

Contact person: Thomas Gammeltoft-Hansen, email:

Jan Komarek

In the area of the ERC-funded project IMAGINE we welcome proposals alongside the following themes: 1) Ideas and ideologies of European constitutionalism, taking a critical approach to the existing theories of European constitutionalism and examining their potential to serve as ideologies. 2) 1989, “The End of History” and the post-communist statehood in Europe; proposed projects would be theoretically oriented and examine whether, and if so, how, the attempts to transform the state and its institutions reflected neoliberal ideology of the time. 3) Rethinking Law, Capitalism and Democracy would focus on the various ties between capitalism, democracy and law – either at international/European level, or in the context of national constitutionalism.

Beyond IMAGINE we are interested in projects that seek to examine judicial legitimacy from the normative perspective. The project can be theoretically oriented (embedded in constitutional and/or political theory), or seek to understand the issues concerning judicial legitimacy in a particular context: supranational, transnational or international adjudication, as well as more traditional fields (judicial review, constitutional adjudication or judicial law-making in the national context). Proposals that intend to look at the mutual interaction among the different contexts are particularly welcome.

Contact person:  Jan Komárek, email:

Mikkel Jarle Christensen

I welcome PhD projects on criminal justice systems, especially those that have developed at the border or outside of the state. Such systems include international criminal justice that has been built around international criminal courts as well as more transnational patterns of cooperation between criminal justice stakeholders such as prosecution services and the police. In particular, I welcome original projects that take an empirical, theoretically informed approach to studying how criminal justice has been developed at the border or outside of the state and how this has affected societal attempts at curbing globalized crime.

Contact person: Mikkel Jarle Christensen, email:

Veronika Fikfak

  • topics related to regulation of internet giants through human rights and international law
  • topics related to human rights compliance with international treaties and judgments
  • topics studying behaviour of states in international law (including through the use of behavioural economics and psychology)
  • topics studying the work and functions of judges on international and domestic level (including from psychological perspectives)
  • topics studying domestic implementation of international law by courts and parliaments

Contact person: Veronika Fikfak, email: