Violent environments? Towards a political ecology of international law

Event date
10 November 2022
Event time
12:45 - 14:00
Oxford week
MT 5
The Dorfman Centre, St Peter's College, and Online via Zoom

Dr Eliana Cusato, University of Amsterdam

To join (whether in person or online), please complete the Registration Form by 5:30pm on Wednesday 9 November. Please note that if you register for online attendance after this time, a Zoom link may not be sent to you.


The conflict in Ukraine has brought the ecological dimensions of armed conflict back to the fore, with some commentators arguing that the environment has been another ‘casualty’ of the war and calling for accountability. Yet, I would claim, the ‘environment’ is something more than a ‘silent victim’ of modern warfare, something to be protected and cherished. To illuminate the much more complex interaction of nature, violence, and conflict, I suggest turning to the work of political scientists, ecologists, and economists. Since at least the 1980s, accumulating research in peace and conflict studies has sought to explain how environmental issues may contribute to the outbreak, escalation, prolongation and, ultimately, resolution of violent conflict. While this literature is not monolithic, some specific ideas have fed into international law influencing legal discourses and practices. In this talk, I will offer an overview of the key arguments and interventions of my book. Drawing upon different intellectual traditions, I will unpack the changing ideas of nature in rules governing war and the transition to peace and show how international law ends up silencing (and even normalising) forms of slow and structural ecological violence. In the final part, I will consider how a political ecology approach may open up new lines of inquiry and help us rethink dominant assumptions within the legal field.


Dr Eliana Cusato is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie postdoctoral fellow at the Amsterdam Center for International Law (ACIL), University of Amsterdam. Her current research explores the interrelation of political ecology/economy, violence, and conflict in the theory and practice of international law. She is the author of The Ecology of War and Peace: Marginalising Slow and Structural Violence in International Law, published in September 2021 with Cambridge University Press. She holds academic qualifications from the National University of Singapore (Ph.D.) and Catholic University of Milan (LL.B and LL.M). She was a visiting researcher at the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law, University of Cambridge, and the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies, Leiden University. She is a member of the editorial board of the Asian Journal of International Law. In 2021 she was awarded the young scholar prize of the European Society of International Law. Prior to joining ACIL, Eliana was a lecturer at Essex Law School (UK). Before entering academia, she practiced as a lawyer in Milan specialising in white collar and environmental crimes.

Public International Law Discussion Group

The Public International Law Discussion Group at the University of Oxford is a key focal point for PIL@Oxford and hosts regular speaker events. Topics involve contemporary and challenging issues in international law. Speakers include distinguished international law practitioners, academics, and legal advisers from around the world.

PIL Discussion Group Convenor: 
Natasha Holcroft-Emmess.

The Discussion Group's meetings are part of the programme of the British Branch of the International Law Association and are supported by the Law Faculty and Oxford University Press.

The seminar will commence at 12:45pm UK Time and the speaker will present for around 30-40 minutes, with around 30 minutes for questions and discussion. The meeting should conclude by 2pm UK Time.

Practitioners, academics and students from within and outside the University of Oxford are all welcome.

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