PhD Topics 2019-2020

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

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:

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

The division of responsibility in international military operations
Many states, including Denmark, currently participate in international military operations, which entail the risk of several states jointly violating international law, or one state contributing to a breach of international law committed by other states. There is a need for further research on the legal challenges for states such as Denmark with regard to the misconduct of partners, including both states and non-state actors, in connection with military operations abroad. 

Individual and unit self-defence under international law
Scholars have devoted considerable attention to the inherent right to self-defence of states under Article 51 of the UN Charter, including the question of whether this right can be invoked in response to armed attacks by non-state actors. Beyond the issue of national self-defence, however, there is a need for further research on the right of individual soldiers as well as their military units to exercise self-defence under various circumstances including both armed conflict and peacetime situations.

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 asylum and migration law. This may cover topics such as European asylum and migration policy and law, normative evolution in asylum and migration law, and the enforcement of regional and global agreements on migration and refugees (including the Global Compacts). 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:

Juan A. Mayoral

I welcome projects that explore the judicialization of politics and the construction of national, European, and International judicial governance. My current research interests would 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 judiciaries. In addition, I am generally interested in projects dealing with the European Union and the institutional dynamics affecting the development of EU law.

With regard to the methodological approaches, I am interested in PhD proposals based on interdisciplinary and empirical qualitative and quantitative methods. Furthermore, for projects addressing EU political-legal research topics there is a possibility of integration as part of the Jean Monnet Chair in EU law & Politics. More info here.

Contact person: Juan A. Mayoral, email: