Show/hide main menu


Transnational Law Reading Lab


Since November 2014, the Transnational Law Institute at King’s College London has been hosting a regular reading and discussion forum on seminal and new writings in transnational law, governance, and political legal theory. The READING LAB is an informal gathering to revisit or discover scholarly contributions to an emerging field where law and development meet, and is open to anyone interested. There is only one rule: anyone attending ought to have read the assigned text. Note: “Background readings” are optional.


Over the course of the next academic year, the Reading Lab will be hosted by the Transnational Law Institute in collaboration with the International Development Institute at King’s College London. The Reading Lab is open to UG and PGT/PGR students and to faculty in London and, provided there is space, beyond. Accompanying the Reading Lab is a Transnational Law LL.M. module of the same title at The Dickson Poon School of Law, which is cross-listed to the International Development Institute and the Department of War Studies.


The widespread resistance against economic globalization, blatant socio-economic inequality and racism of the last decades has become fueled by the unavailability of effective democratic representation and participation – in ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ countries alike. Despite a rise in ‘rights’ and ‘rule of law’ rhetoric more and more people around the world experience grievous their own marginalization, exclusion and precariousness rather than socio-economic empowerment and political emancipation. Financialisation, privatization and marketization have become the defining drivers of domestic policy development and of the way in which the fading prerogative of the state is declared as being “without alternative”.

The 2016-2017 Reading Lab will feature a number of seminal texts in economic theory, political economy and critical legal & political thought since the 19th century. Our selection is informed by the hope that a more thorough understanding of capitalist development in ‘North’-(Global) ‘South’ relations (economically, historically, epistemologically) can offer important insights when trying to address the deeper roots of recent nationalist revivals, racist parochialism and neo-liberalism’s ‘strange non-death’ (C.Crouch).

2016-17 flyer

Schedule 2016-17 

Wednesday 12 October 2016 – 18:00-20:00. Somerset House 1.18 (Refreshments will be served)

Guy Standing: The Corruption of Capitalism: Why Rentiers Thrive and Work Does Not Pay (2016)


Please note this new book (no longer 'the Travels of a T-Shirt').  Professor Guy Standing will be speaking on his book, and this first reading lab is also the first of the 'Contesting Globalisation', Signature Lecture Series hosted by the TLI. 

Wednesday 9 November 2016 – 18:00-19:00. Franklin Wilkins Building, room 1.71
(Refreshments will be served)

Wolfgang Streeck, Buying Time. The Delayed Crisis of Democratic Capitalism (Verso 2014) [and other writings by the author in New Left Review, Jacobin, SocialEurope]

Background Text (recommended): Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation (2001, w. an introduction by Fred Block and Joseph Stiglitz) [1944]

This reading lab is preceded by 16:30-18:00 lecture and book signing by Professor Streeck. 

Wednesday 30 November 2016 – 18:00-20:00. Somerset House 1.09
(Refreshments will be served)

Dani Rodrik, The Globalization Paradox (2011).

Background Texts (recommended): Amartya Sen, Development as Freedom (1999), Arturo Escobar, Encountering Development (2nd ed, 2012).


Wednesday 18 January 2017 – 18:00-20:00. Somerset House 1.17 (Refreshments will be served)

Cynthia Enloe, Bananas, Beaches and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics (2014).

Background Text (recommended): Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto (1848).


Tuesday 28 February 2017 – 18:00-20:00. Somerset House 1.18 (Refreshments will be served)

Frederick Cooper, Colonialism in Question. Theory, Knowledge, History (2005)

Background Text (recommended): Mark Mazower, Governing the World. The History of an Idea (2012)


Wednesday 22 March 2017 – 18:00-20:00. Somerset House 1.17 (Refreshments will be served)

Boaventura de Sousa Santos, Epistemologies of the South. Justice Against Epistemicide (2014).

Background Text (recommended): Hamid Dabashi, Can Non-Europeans Think? (2015).

Past events: 2014-2016

Transnational Law Reading Lab archive

Tuesday 21 April 2015 

Methodologies of International Law II - The 'Public' and the 'Private' 

Wednesday 11 March 2015 
Methodologies of International Law I - The 'Public' and the 'Private' 

Tuesday 17 February 2015 
Strange Bedfellows in Today’s International Law Politics

Wednesday 7 January 2015 17:00 - 19:00

From Apology to Utopia (CUP 1989, reissue 2005)

Author: Martti Koskenniemi

Finish former diplomat, public international legal historian and theorist, Martti Koskenniemi, stormed on the global legal stage in 1989 with a book that, ever since, has left a deep impression on international legal discourse. Scrutinising a conceptual divide between apologetic, realist justification of state action on the one hand, and international law’s utopian, normative aspiration on the other, Koskenniemi captured the poles between which much of international legal seemed to have been caught inescapably. The book is a deep-drilling and far-reaching analysis of legal argumentation and requires attention and care in its study and in our engagement with it. It is a very substantive piece of work which one has to start reading well before our next meeting.


Besides numerous book reviews published at the time of the book’s first appearance, the German Law Journal published a comprehensive symposium with reactions to the book and its legacy at the occasion of Koskenniemi’s book by Cambridge University Press in 2005. The Symposium’s contributions along with Koskenniemi’s response essay can all be found at  

Wednesday 12 November 2014 17.00 - 19.00

The first text is Philip Jessup’s, “TRANSNATIONAL LAW” (Yale University Press, 1956, pp. 113). The Columbia Law Professor and later ICJ Judge had delivered the Storrs Lectures, on which his book is based, in February 1956 at Yale Law School, where he sketched the contours of an approach to the relationship between domestic/national/municipal and international law in a way that continues to inspire lawyers, scholars and practitioners around the world today. Written in a very accessible style, the slim volume gives an entry into a way of thinking about the law in a fresh and innovative manner, with an eye to its origins, trajectories and its normative stakes. 

The whole of Jessup's book Transnational Law is available to King's staff and students online through the HeinOnline Legal Classics database to which King's subscribes. 

Staff and students can access HeinOnline here.

30 September 2015
Nicolo Machiavelli, The Prince (1513/32) 

21 October 2015
Dieter Grimm, Sovereignty (2015)

18 November 2015
David Armitage, Foundations of Modern International Thought (2013)

27 January 2016
Carl Schmitt, Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty [1922] (1985)

17 February 2016
Edward Said, Orientalism (1978)

16 March 2016
The Invisible Committee’s provocative essay, To Our Friends (2014/2015)

Sitemap Site help Terms and conditions Privacy policy Accessibility Modern slavery statement Contact us

© 2017 King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS | England | United Kingdom | Tel +44 (0)20 7836 5454