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Speaker: Dr Geoffrey Swenson, City University of London

Chair: Professor Oisin Tansey, KIng's College London 

In this CSD seminar, Dr Geoffrey Swenson discusses his new book Contending Orders: Legal Pluralism and the Rule of Law.

Legal pluralism matters. It shapes how people order their lives and interact with their fellow citizens and with state officials. Often in developing countries, for instance, non-state justice systems handle most disputes and operate with real autonomy from the state. Robust legal pluralism challenges conventional notions of sovereignty because a competing justice system undercuts the state’s claim to a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence within its territory.

Contending Orders examines the role of legal pluralism in state-building, with a particular focus on efforts to establish democratic governance and the rule of law. State and non-state justice may largely work in tandem, while clashing legal systems can generate prolonged and potentially even violent conflict. The book proposes new ways to better understand how legal pluralism functions in practice, and how state and non-state authorities interact. It also explores the tools and strategies domestic and international actors can use to influence the relationship between state and non-state justice systems. Case studies from two countries with extensive legal pluralism, Afghanistan and Timor-Leste, illustrate why legal pluralism has a profound impact on attempts to promote democracy and the rule of law.

Speaker Profile

Geoffrey Swenson is a Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) of International Politics at City, University of London, an External Affiliate of Ostrom Workshop at the University of Indiana, a Trustee of the British International Studies Association, and a Term Member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Swenson completed a PhD in International Relations at Oxford as a Clarendon Scholar and won the Winchester Prize for most outstanding thesis. He holds an MA from Queen's University Belfast as a Mitchell Scholar, and a JD from Stanford Law School. Swenson has held fellowships at Oxford, LSE, Stanford, and the Carnegie Endowment.

Swenson’s book, Contending Orders: Legal Pluralism and the Rule of Law, was recently published by Oxford University Press. His research has been published in leading journals including International Security, World Development, International Studies Review, Third World Quarterly, Disasters, and the Columbia Human Rights Law Review.

At this event

Oisin Tansey

Professor of International Politics