Disrupting Narratives and Pluralising Engagement in International Economic Law Scholarship, Teaching and Practice.
International economic law (IEL) as an arena of scholarship, policy and practice has developed exponentially over the past three decades, evolving from a sub-field of public international law into a multi-layered, highly specialised discipline of its own. As a field of study, IEL encompasses a broad range of issues relating to the law, regulation and governance of the global economy, including trade, investment, finance, intellectual property, business regulation, energy and competition law. Despite this phenomenal expansion, there remain significant questions over the plurality and diversity of methodologies, voices and viewpoints in the discipline.
For many scholars, practitioners, teachers and students of IEL, the discipline is constrained by an orthodoxy that structures, produces and reproduces knowledge about the law and the operation of the law without cognisance to the social, cultural, economic, political, geopolitical and historical contexts in which the law is embedded. Importantly, thinking, teaching and doing international economic law without recognition or understanding of these broader structural forces is to confer ‘epistemological privilege’ (Santos, 2014: 152) to sites of knowledge production and to knowledge producers rooted in historical and contemporary asymmetries of power and patriarchy.
At a time when academic institutions and disciplines are challenging the lack of pluralism and representation, in terms of gender, race, geographical locations and epistemologies in general, there is a need to reframe the lens through which conventional international economic law is produced, epistemically and operationally. There is an imperative to contextualise and historicise the scholarship on IEL and render visible the otherwise marginalised perspectives, particularly those which speak to precarity, vulnerability and inequality in the global economic order. This will contribute towards a richer and more comprehensive understanding of IEL and its impacts on the constituencies it regulates, governs and disciplines. An important component of this project to disrupt, decolonise and diversify the epistemic landscape of IEL is providing platforms to engage and enable traditionally neglected narratives and voices, including women, ethnic and sexual minorities, indigenous peoples and postcolonial communities from the south.
The IEL Collective is aimed at providing a space for critical reflection on these complex interactions in the growing field of international economic law. It aims to explore how epistemological and methodological diversity in the discipline can contribute towards the development of a more holistic landscape of scholarship on law and the governance of the global economy. We aim to stimulate conversations about plurality, representation and criticality in researching, teaching and practising international economic law and spark new conversations about the future of the discipline.
Photos by Isaac Trimmer