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Transnational Law Focus Seminar Series

The Transnational Law Institute at King’s College London [TLI] invites faculty and students at King’s and beyond for a new, interdisciplinary seminar series. TLI FOCUS SEMINARS explore ‘hot button’ issues as well as long-standing challenges in law and regulatory governance. A particular emphasis lies on exploring law’s relationship to, its engagement with and its impact on social developments. The Seminars are held as Roundtables with opening statements by the conveners, followed by an open discussion. Selected advance readings are made available.

2019-2020 TLI Focus Seminar Series

Autumn Term 2019

The Legal Underpinnings of Imperial Life

Value Chains, Activism, Resistance: Framing a Transformation Perspective. A Roundtable

The background for this seminar is formed by decades of critical legal theory work, critical race theory, LGTBQ critique and, following closely on the heels of international law’s still unfolding engagement with the discipline’s imperial past (“TWAIL”), the further developing examination of law’s and its associated institutions’ and processes’ colonial and postcolonial inheritances.

As we see the disciplinary and methodological challenges deepen and multiply, it becomes evident, how important it is to critically investigate the registers, the “toolkits” and the sites of analysis for this work. It is in this spirit that the second TLI Focus Seminar will concentrate on the complex assemblages that are ‘global value chains’. As both organizational and – to a large degree, self-regulatory regimes of knowledge transfer, production and distribution, global value chains are also instantiations of disembedded capitalism, networked economies, “shadow sovereigns” and the myriad forms of life in, around and with “the chain.” From a both critical, postcolonial and a law & political economy (LPE) perspective, GVCs have become the target for scholarly, inter-disciplinary analysis but also for wide-ranging legal activism, litigation and advocacy.

In our seminar, GVCs will also be scrutinized as the mesmerizing manifestations as what some scholars have recently started referring to as ‘imperial life’, a critical lens through which to study the interdependencies between the Global South and North in an era of neoliberal capitalism.


Convener: Peer Zumbansen (Transnational Law Institute, King’s College London)


Videos of our Signature Lectures can be found here on our YouTube and Soundcloud channels.


Focus Seminar Series archive - Past Events

2019-2020 TLI Focus Seminar Series

The End of Globalization?

Resurging Nationalism, Authoritarian Constitutionalism and

Uncertain Futures of Democracy. A Roundtable

 FRIDAY 18 OCTOBER 2019, 3-6 pm

Council Room, King’s College London, Strand Building, 2nd Floor, Strand WC2R 2LS.

  • Penelope Andrews (New York Law School, NY, author of ‘From Cape Town to Kabul: Reconsidering Women’s Rights’, Ashgate 2012)
  • Günter Frankenberg (Goethe University & Excellency Cluster, Frankfurt; Co-editor, Authoritarian Constitutionalism)
  • Nimer Sultany (SOAS, University of London, Contributor to Authoritarian Constitutionalism, Author of ‘Law and Revolution. Legitimacy and Constitutionalism after the Arab Spring’, OUP 2018)

Convener: Peer Zumbansen (Transnational Law Institute, King’s College London)

  1. What are some of the key symptoms of an alleged End of Globalization and a Return of Nationalism?
  2. What place holds the study (and, ideology) of Comparative Constitutionalism?
  3. What are some of the prevalent symptoms and phenomena of what has recently been called “Authoritarian Constitutionalism”?
    1. What are the sites, the loci of this emergence? Courts, Executive Branches? Corporate Power Players? Populist Movements?
    2. What are the battle grounds of authoritarian constitutionalism? Civil Rights, Social Rights, Religious Rights? All of the above?
    3. Is the study of AC truly transnational or is it based on a hidden consensus regarding a “good” model and those considered “rogue” or “failed”?
    4. In other words, how can a transnational study of AC avoid the parochial risks of Global Constitutional Law projects in the early 2000s?
    5. What are the core ingredients of a forward-looking discipline of “Constitutional Law in a Global Context” (CLiGC)? To what degree must it be different from and yet connected to domestic constitutional law? How far must CLiGC heed and build on the lessons of Legal Realism, Law in Context and Law & Society? How important are post-colonial legal theories?


Signature Lectures archive - Past Events

2018-19 Excluded Voices and Suppressed Narratives

2018-19 Excluded Voices and Suppressed Narratives

Unblinding Justice for Social Change

We live in a hugely polarised world in which, for many, life has become longer and better than in any other time whereas, for many others, it is still “nasty, brutish and short.” Even those who would supposedly fall into the privileged side of the divide increasingly feel their lives and the world are getting worse, not better. They point to the rise in inequality experienced almost everywhere in the world in the past few decades, the growth of suffering and displacement in bloody conflicts, the migration and refugee crisis, the resilient brutality and corruption of authoritarian regimes, and the ever more visible effects of environmental destruction and climate change.     

The 2018-2019 Signature Lectures at the Transnational Law Institute at King’s College London are dedicated to these broad topics of inclusion and exclusion and, in particular, to the longstanding contention that law is both complicit and instrumental in silencing critique and empowering resistance and change. Cloaked in transcendent principles of universality, law should be and often is able to help, but also often fails the most vulnerable, most marginalised and most disempowered people.

This failure is often of law’s implementation, but also of law’s blindness and deafness to the plight of vulnerable groups, whose stories are rarely told and heard.

Building on the approach of KTLS18 ( we are inviting not only legal scholars, but academics, thinkers and doers from all quarters to join the debate and help us uncover and publicise the suppressed stories that may lead to legal developments and social change.

The 2018-2019 lectures are made possible by the generous gift of Sir Dickson Poon in support of the Transnational Law Institute and are open to the interested public.

All events are followed by a reception.

Autumn Term 2018

Wednesday 24 October 2018, 18:00, SW1.17 
Prof Ratna Kapur, International Law at Queen Mary University of London
Title: Human Rights, Freedom and Excluded Epistemologies 
Thursday 15 November 2018, 18:00, Council Room 
Prof Katerina Linos, UC Berkeley Law
Title: How Technology is Transforming Migration and Refugee Law
Wednesday 5 December 2018, 18:00, SW1.18 
Prof Leif Wenar, King’s College London 
Title: Blood Oil: Tyrants, Violence, and the Rules That Run the World

Spring Term 2019

Wednesday 30 January 2019, 18:00, SW1.18 
Prof Emily Grabham, University of Kent 
Title: The Sexual Contract is a Cosmic Gamble: Law, Fate, and World-Making in the Lives of Women in Precarious Work
Wednesday 6 February 2019, 18:00, SW1.18  
Prof Walter Kaelin, University of Bern/Switzerland
Title: We don’t want to become refugees: Displacement in the context of disasters and climate change
Thursday 14 February 2019, 18:00, Council Room  
Prof Kathryn Sikkink, Harvard Kennedy School
Title: Evidence for Hope: Making Human Rights Work in the 21st Century
Podcast: Soundcloud
Video: YouTube
2017-18 Democratic Politics in Global Crisis?

2017-18 Democratic Politics in Global Crisis?

Challenges, Approaches, Resistances

The election of Trump in the USA, the Brexit vote in the UK, the rise of extremist parties in France, Holland and elsewhere, impeachments (successful and failed) of presidents in South Korea, Brazil and South Africa following corruption scandals, authoritarian turns in Hungary, Poland and Russia… Wherever one turns to, there are worrying signs that democracy, or at least democratic politics, is in trouble around the world.

This is further corroborated by lower election turn out and repudiation of mainstream political parties and politicians, symptoms of a generalized sentiment of political disenchantment that leads to political disengagement.

How deep is this crisis? What are its causes? How can it be solved?

These are the themes and questions we will be debating in our Transnational Law Institute Signature Lectures, now in its third year, with experts from around the world. The lectures are organized around four broad sub-topics: Democracy and extremism; Democracy and inequality; Democracy and corruption and Democracy and authoritarianism. 

The Signature Lectures are delivered by world renowned scholars whose work tackles central challenges in global governance by cutting across disciplinary boundaries to develop new analytical and conceptual frameworks, which address today’s pressing problems of transnational legality and legitimacy with rigour and fresh eyes. Previous speakers included: Saskia Sassen, Albie Sachs, Sally Engle Merry, Wolfgang Streeck, Joseph Weiler, Eve Darian-Smith, Guy Standing, Upendra Baxi and Boaventura Sousa Santos. 

All events are followed by a reception.

Autumn Term 2017

Monday 16 October 2017, 18:00. K0.20

Katrin Kinzelbach, Authoritarianism in Global Ascendance?

Friday 17 November 2017, 17:00. SW1.18

Martin Krygier, Institutionalisation and its Discontents. The Rule of Law versus (Anti-) Constitutional Populism in East Central Europe


Tuesday 21 November 2017, 17:00. SW1.18

Leonardo Avritzer, The new prerogatives of the judicial system and the political crisis in Brazil


Wednesday 29 November 2017, 17:00. SW1.17

Matthew Goodwin, The Rise of National Populism and its Impact on Western Democracies


Spring Term 2018

Wednesday 24 January 2018, 18:00. SW1.18

Eva Pils, Re-politicising human rights in China


Wednesday 31 January 2018, 16:30. SW1.17

Nic Cheeseman, Is African democracy in crisis?


Wednesday 7 February 2018, 17:00. SW1.17

Antje Wiener, Global International Relations Theory: Contestation Repertoires and Normative Change 


Wednesday 14 February 2018, 17:00. SW1.18

Claus Offe, The 'democracy cube' under the onslaught of populist politics


Monday 5 March 2018, 18:00. SW1.18 *Cancelled*

Sabeel Rahman, Progressive Populism and the Third Reconstruction? Addressing The Crisis of Democratic Inclusion in 21st Century Capitalism

Friday 16 March 2018, 18:00. SW1.18  *Cancelled*
Branko Milanovic - 'Recent trends in global income distribution and their political implications'
2016-17 Contesting Globalisation (Post-Brexit)

Contesting Globalisation (Post-Brexit)

Examining Transnationalisation, Capitalism and Democracy in a Global Age

The Brexit vote on 23 June 2016 and the spectre of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union have been labelled as one of the most momentous historical events in centuries. Its constitutional dimension is being debated far beyond the country’s borders, but so are the vote’s even deeper causes and origins. While some point to the growing frustration of UK citizens over an alleged loss of sovereignty, which is said to manifest itself in immigration numbers and herewith associated fiscal and economic burdens, others argue for a wider view. From that perspective, Brexit has to be seen as an outcry against conditions of economic and political marginalization, and a state of precariousness in which the 99% finds itself today – in the UK and well beyond. Brexit, then, becomes an illustration of ‘globalisation and its discontents’, a long-overdue and, looking at the manifestations of public outcry in Greece, Spain, and elsewhere, an event less surprising than the post-vote news had made it out to be.

The 2016-2017 Signature Lectures at the Transnational Law Institute at King’s College London are delivered by some of the most renowned, critical minds in law and political science today.

All lectures are public, but spaces are limited. Some of the Signature Lectures coincide with the Transnational Law Reading Laboratory, a monthly book seminar, featuring a concentrated discussion of new as well as seminal legal-theoretical and political scholarship.

For dates and to RSVP, please see below.

Spring Term 2017

Wednesday 15 March 2017, 18:00. SW1.18
Takis Tridimas, (King's College London)
Process and substance in the Brexit bargain: what does it mean to belong?

Wednesday 1 March 2017, 18:00. SW1.18
Antoine Vauchez, (Université Paris 1, Panthéon Sorbonne)
The Appeal of Independence: The EU’s Way of Political Authority (from genesis to crisis)

Wednesday 8 February 2017, 16:30. SW1.18 
Cathryn Costello, (University of Oxford)
Refugee status as a transnational status: Refugee mobility as envisaged in the 1951 Refugee Convention

Tuesday 24 January 2017, 18:15. SW1.17
Michele Everson, (Birkbeck, University of London)
Post Brexit: Escape from the Economised Society

Wednesday 25 January 2017, 18:00. SW1.17 
Vivien Schmidt, (Boston University)
Europe’s Crisis of Legitimacy:  Governing by Rules and Numbers in the Eurozone

Autumn Term 2016

Wednesday 12 October 2016, 18:00. SW1.18

Guy Standing, (SOAS)
The Corruption of Capitalism

Wednesday 26 October 2016, 16:30. SW 1.17
Daniel Drache, (York University, CA)
Post-Brexit and the Crisis of Trade Multilateralism: Heartbreak or Mess?
Listen to a ten minute interview with Daniel Drache here on the School's Soundcloud account

Wednesday 9 Nov. 2016, 16:30. Room 1.71, Franklin Wilkins Building, Waterloo
Wolfgang Streeck, (Max Planck Institute)
How Will Capitalism End?
[Book Launch & Signing]
Watch an interview with Wolfgang Streeck here on the School's YouTube channel

Wednesday 23 November 2016, 16:30. SW 1.17
Kenneth Armstrong, (University of Cambridge)
Brexit and Free Trades: Causes and Effects
Listen to an interview with Kenneth Armstrong here on the School's Soundcloud account.

Thursday 1 December 2016, 18:15. SW1.17
Joseph Weiler, (European University Institute)
Europe As A Spiritual Crisis

2015-16 Signature Lecture Series



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