The Feminism and International Law Interest Group of the European Society of International Law invite paper around the theme of:
Whose Global Public Goods, Global Commons and Fundamental Values?
Call for Papers for Interest Group Event
To be held in Naples on 6th September 2017
Feminist approaches to international law have long worked to challenge the “global” nature of international law through various means. One way this area of scholarship has done this has been to show how international law in many ways ignores and silences women’s experiences. At a pragmatic level, access to global public goods has been a key issue with access to things like water, food and health often being gendered and racialised with women and other minorities gaining unequal access. International law has therefore proven to be a discursive space which broadly promotes itself as liberal, yet this has also worked to disguise the limitations of international law, with international law often ignoring the pleas of people whom it, at the same time, promotes itself as helping.
There is no denying that women and their needs have been given more recognition and attention in international law over the past two decades, through the recognition of women’s rights for example. However, feminist work has also noted the ways in which the promotion of women’s rights as a fundamental value has been appropriated and used as a tool for power. One example of this is the way “women’s rights” were used by many Western States to justify the war in Afghanistan (the war being called for, in part, in order to “save” Afghan women). International law’s feminist focus can be seen as limited in that it mostly focuses on liberal feminist considerations, thereby silencing the diversity of voices within feminist and gender scholarship as well as ensuring that international law itself focuses primarily on certain women.
The same critique of international law’s limited, liberal focus, it is noted, applies to the status of queer people and activists in international law. Queer scholarship, such as Puar’s work on homonationalism, has shown how “the global” has been willing to promote LGBT rights as a fundamental global value whilst, in turn, working to use this global value as a tool for power. One example of this can be seen through the pinkwashing phenomenon, whereby States such as Israel promote themselves as global protectors and promotors of LGBT rights (and thereby as progressive liberal States), thus using this to hide and conceal other human rights abuses. With the emergence of a homonormative standard for the liberal assessment of legitimate nationhood or communitarian projects, in the context of LBGT rights, this often being done through the promotion of rights such as marriage, the more radical elements of queer thought, which challenge these structures as being founded on racist and heteronormative functions, are suppressed. Further, by aiming to impose the Western, liberal LGBT rights framework globally, as a fundamental value, many LGBT activists work to ignore the contexts in which queer people live in and what these people themselves may see as liberation (which may not, for example, be the possibility to marry, for example).
Further to this, the focus of international law on promoting civil and political rights over economic, social and cultural i.e. the rights which ensure equal access to global public goods such as water, has worked in many ways to silence women’s needs through promoting a limited, liberal account of freedom. With global goods such as water now being largely commodified across many parts of the world, there have been many calls in recent years for these public goods to belong, instead, to the commons. Liberalism, as one of international law’s fundamental values, has become neoliberalism, as can be shown in the IMF’s reductive accounts of freedom for women and LGBT people as access to the market alone (without account to the fact, for example, that having a low paid job is not necessarily freedom, especially in a world where things like water are commodified and may thus be inaccessible for those on low wages).
This Interest Group event will challenge these limited notions of what queer and feminist subject’s needs, working to challenge the very structures of international law itself and the values it pertains to promote. Topics may include (though need not be exclusive to):
- Women’s access to and feminist perspectives on global public goods such as water, food, free trade and public health.
- Feminist and queer critiques of international law’s ‘fundamental values’ such as liberalism and
- Feminist perspectives on the global commons such as: the law of the seas, the law of outer space and immaterial cultural heritage (for example).
- Feminist perspectives on fundamental values such as: human rights, peace, protection of the environment, self-determination and
This panel event thereby aims to situate in discussion, critical feminist perspectives on international law, intersectional and/or postcolonial and decolonising feminist perspectives as well as queer perspectives and is open to abstract submissions on these themes accordingly.
We invite presenters who wish to showcase their work using non-traditional formats, such as through art, photography and performance, to apply.
Abstracts of no more than 300 words along with an up to date CV should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org by no later than Friday 28th April 2017.
The Interest Group is unable to provide funding for travel to and attendance at the conference. As this is an Interest Group event, there will be no fee to attend or speak. However, we also cannot offer a speaker’s discount to the main ESIL conference taking place 7-9th September.
Please see the ESIL website for information on finances and for other relevant information about the conference.
Selection Committee: Loveday Hodson, Troy Lavers, Emily Jones and Bérénice K. Schramm