Feminist Approaches to International Law


Karen Engle, Vasuki Nesiah, Dianne L. Otto

International Legal Theory: Foundations and Frontiers 174


This chapter offers accounts of three feminist “success stories,” each of which has invoked a sense of crisis to call for carceral and militarized international legal responses. We argue that these projects have reinforced many dangerous aspects of both feminism and international law, as they have used a focus on harm to women – particularly sexual harm – to aid in the legitimization and extension of legal, military and economic institutional arrangements that exacerbate the precarity of marginalized individuals, communities, and states. Their use of crisis has participated in the crowding out of a variety of alternative feminist (and other) perspectives, particularly those that take aim at the often quotidian forms of violence based in the overlapping structures of colonialism, racism, gender normativity, and gross economic inequality. We contend that anti-imperial and sex-positive feminisms as well as queer theory offer important vehicles for challenging the dominant approaches. We gesture toward how they might even consider invoking crisis (such as the often everyday and unnoticeable crises of neocolonial, neoliberal, carceral, and militarized dimensions of global governance) to foster transformative feminist, queer, and redistributive ends.

Full Citation

Karen Engle, Vasuki Nesiah, Dianne L. Otto, Feminist Approaches to International Law, in International Legal Theory: Foundations and Frontiers 174 (Jeffrey L. Dunoff, Mark A. Pollack; Cambridge University PressJuly 2022). View Online