Anthea Roberts is Associate Professor in the School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet) at the Australian National University. She specializes in public international law, investment treaty law and arbitration, and comparative international law. Anthea previously taught at the London School of Economics as well as Columbia and Harvard Law Schools. She is on the Editorial Boards of the American Journal of International Law, ICSID Review, and the Journal of World Investment and Trade, and blogs for EJIL: Talk! She has twice won the Francis Deák Prize for the best AJIL article by a younger scholar. Anthea serves as a Reporter for the Restatement (Fourth) of the Foreign Relations Law of the United States, and has experience serving as an arbitrator, counsel, and expert in international disputes.
In this talk, Anthea Roberts will present her new book Is International Law International? (OUP, 2017), which was awarded the American Society of International Law’s 2018 Book Prize for the preeminent contribution to creative scholarship.
This book takes the reader on a sweeping tour of the international legal field to reveal some of the patterns of difference, dominance, and disruption that belie international law’s claim to universality. Pulling back the curtain on the “divisible college of international lawyers”, Anthea Roberts shows how international lawyers in different states, regions, and geopolitical groupings are often subject to distinct incoming influences and outgoing spheres of influence in ways that reflect and reinforce differences in how they understand and approach international law. These divisions manifest themselves in contemporary controversies, such as debates about Crimea and the South China Sea.
Not all approaches to international law are created equal, however. Using case studies and visual representations, the author demonstrates how actors and materials from some states and groups have come to dominate certain transnational flows and forums in ways that make them disproportionately influential in constructing the "international". This point holds true for Western actors, materials, and approaches in general, and for Anglo-American (and sometimes French) ones in particular.
However, these patterns are set for disruption. As the world moves past an era of Western dominance and toward greater multipolarity, it is imperative for international lawyers to understand the perspectives and approaches of those coming from diverse backgrounds. By taking readers on a comparative tour of different international law academies and textbooks, the author encourages them to see the world through the eyes of others - an essential skill in this fast changing world of shifting power dynamics and rising nationalism.
Comments by the ASIL 2018 Book Awards Committee:
“Roberts turns a beguilingly simple question into a globe-trotting, multi-method quest for a map of international laws players and meanings. Simultaneously irreverent and serious-minded, Roberts develops an original research agenda that takes her and the reader through the migratory flows of international lawyers around the world, the divergent methods through which they are educated, and the different professional tracks through which they are socialized. The book does not just dissolve international laws myths of universality; it is a nascent sociology of the field of international law and the beginning of a new field of comparative international law. In an era in which Western dominance over international law no longer looks certain, this book provides the tools for a more nuanced understanding of international laws politics, revealing the deeper meanings and stakes of current debates.”
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