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Socio-Legal Methodologies

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Doing International Economic Law Differently? Socio-Legal Methodologies and the Study of International Trade, Investment and Financial Law

On Tuesday, 16 May 2017, the Centre for Law, Regulation and Governance of the Global Economy (GLOBE) at the University of Warwick, as part of the International Economic Law in Context Seminar Series, hosted a public event on Doing International Economic Law Differently? Socio-Legal Methodologies and the Study of International Trade, Investment and Financial Law. The event consisted of a panel discussion followed by a workshop for early career researchers to discuss their own research ideas with the panellists. Participants also discussed the challenges they faced as socio-legal researchers in what is still very much a traditional, doctrinal (or 'black letter') field of scholarship and agreed to establish a network for early career researchers to connect and discuss these issues.

Below is a short video outlining the aims and objectives of this project and the outcomes of the event.

Panel Discussion

A prominent feature in international legal scholarship over the past two decades has been the transformation of international economic law (IEL) from a subset of public international law into a multi-layered, highly specialised field of academic study and legal practice. Traditional, formalist legal methodologies have been challenged by the expansion and growing complexity of international economic law as a field of study. This event aimed to explore how different methodological and conceptual approaches to the study of international economic law can enhance understanding of IEL’s increasingly complex landscape. Drawing on their own research experiences in the fields of international investment law, trade law and financial law, our speakers reflected on how socio-legal and contextual approaches are contributing towards framing and understanding their domains of study. They explored how such approaches can provide vital methodological frameworks for the future development of scholarship on international economic law and its relationship to broader debates about globalisation.


Dr Lorenzo Cotula, Principal Researcher in Law and Sustainable Development from the International Institute for Environment and Development, and visiting academic at the Law School discussed insights from empirical research on international investment law. He explored how socio-legal methodologies enabled him to interrogate the assumptions that typically underpin investment treaty making, particularly the connections that are often drawn between investment protection, investment promotion and economic development.


Dr James Harrison, Associate Professor at the Law School will discuss his ESRC-funded research into labour standards provisions in EU trade agreements. He reflected on how the empirical nature of this project has allowed him to interrogate questions about the impact of such provisions within national legal systems and political economies, as well as the relative prioritisation of different international trade law commitments by key actors. Click here for more details on this project.


Dr Celine Tan, Associate Professor at the Law School discussed how socio-legal methodologies have enabled her to explore the complex web of law, policy and power which underpin international relationships in the global financial architecture.

For further details about this project, contact: globe at warwick dot ac dot uk