Second LDRN PhD summer school successfully rounded off at ISS, The Hague

Report by Jeff Handmaker (ISS) – academic coordinator LDRN Summer School

From 24-28 June 2019, the 2nd LDRN PhD Summer School (Workshop) took place.

The course was organised in The Hague on behalf of the Law and Development Research Network (LDRN) by the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) of Erasmus University Rotterdam in the framework of the Integrating Normative and Functional Approaches to the Rule of Law and Human Rights Project and the Governance, Law and Social Justice Research Group.

The academic programme involved contributions from colleagues in the LDRN and in particular Warwick University, University of the Witwatersrand, Antwerp University and Leiden University as well as The Hague University of Applied Sciences.

The guiding questions of the workshop were:  what does law seek to accomplish, and how is society affected by it? And from a researcher standpoint, how do I identify synergies between my research subject and those of others? 

As the organizers noted, law’s values and law’s function are generally discussed as entirely separate topics. But a discussion of legal equality in the distribution of resources or tackling foreign-based corruption would ring rather hollow if it didn’t engage with how law functioned (or was dysfunctional) from a governance standpoint.  Similarly, understanding the social working of law and in particular the possibilities for individual and state accountability in a conflict setting has crucial implications for how the normative content and doctrinal principles underpinning international criminal law ought to be interpreted and – possibly – reframed.

Further, the positionality of the researcher should be regarded in a critically-reflexive manner. This is especially crucial when researching legal values and law’s function in a law and development context where researchers frequently confront a range of complex societal, economic, gendered and cultural dilemmas, including socio-economic and white privilege and cultural essentialism.

The 2019 LDRN PhD Course involved 17 doctoral candidates from 12 different academic institutions, most of which are affiliated to the network as LDRN partner institutions. Participants hailed originally from a wide range of countries, including Brazil, Sweden, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Lebanon, Bosnia, Cameroon, India, Germany, The Netherlands and Italy. Most participants were of a legal background and based at a law faculty, although most combined different legal (and related) fields and disciplines to discuss the role of law in relation to development questions both occurring in the global north and in the global south.

In the workshop, we paid particular attention both to law’s embedded values as well as its functional character. It was expected that, from the course, participants would draw insights on some of the methodological, ethical and theoretical considerations relevant for these aspects of the law and development research field. The course involved a diverse range of interactive pedagogical methods of teaching and learning, from interactive lectures and seminars, to individual methods clinics, group work sessions, a field visit, an expressive workshop by Aminata Cairo involving movement and role-play and several evening activities where participants continued to engage in debates and discussions.

Each participant in the 2019 LDRN course received an individual certificate of attendance. ISS determined the course to be equivalent to 3 ECTS (European Study Credits).