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Transnational Law Reading Laboratory

The TLI at The Dickson Poon School of Law has been hosting the Transnational Law Reading Lab continuously since the Institute’s launch in September 2014. 

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.

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 TLI Transnational Law Reading Laboratory 2019-2020

Further Reading Labs to be announced in the new academic term.

Transnational Law Reading Lab archive:


2018 - 2019

Theme: Gender and the Law


This year’s Reading Lab reflects on gender and the law through literature, memoir and scholarship. Some of the works selected are contextual, some are imaginative, whilst others are provocative. Through the books selected, the Reading Lab will be a forum for an energetic and expansive discussion of the interplay between gender and the law. The Reading Lab is the perfect companion to the Transnational Law LLM module, Legal Feminism.

Since November 2014, the TLI has hosted a regular reading and discussion group to encourage scholars to read and think beyond their discrete disciplinary interests. The Reading Lab is an informal gathering open to all anyone interested, reading the set text is the only requirement for attendance.

Background Readings (optional)

Nicola Lacey, ‘Feminist Legal Theory’ (1989) 9 OJLS 838

Angela P Harris, ‘Race and Essentialism in Feminist Legal Theory’ (1990) 42 Stanford Law Review 581

James Boyd White, ‘The Desire for Meaning in Law and Literature’ (2000) Current Legal Problems

Semester 1

Wednesday 17 October: Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) – SW1.18, Somerset House East Wing
Thursday 22 November: Bell Hooks, Feminism is for Everyone (2000) – Old Committee Room, King's Building
Tuesday 11 December: Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran (2003) – The Wellington Room, 1st Floor, Somerset House East Wing

Semester 2

Tuesday 15 January: Naomi Alderman, Power (2016) – Old Committee Room, King's Building
Wednesday 27 February: Maggie Nelson, The Argonauts (2015) - SW1.18, Somerset House East Wing
Wednesday 13 March: Lila Abu-Lughod, Do Muslim Women Need Saving? (2013) – SW1.17, Somerset House East Wing
2017 - 2018

Theme: Transnational Law and Literature from the Global South

Abstract: As the discursive boundaries between fiction and poetry writing, and art production between ‘the North’ and ‘the South’ are becoming ever more porous, changes in pedagogy and research reflect the growing engagement with transnational literatures. With the rise of ‘world literature’, the continuing expansion and maturing of ‘cultural studies’ and an increasingly interconnected universe of literary studies, post-colonial theory, anthropology, history and sociology, there is an abundance now of new and evolving key words and categories. Courses are offered on “third world literature”, on “global south” and “world” literature. These can be seen as part of considerably more comprehensive, yet still evolving interdisciplinary projects on the Global South. Examples include related undertakings at Cornell University and the University of Virginia.* There is a pressing need to explore the relations between these developments and law/legal theory.

Background and introductory readings:

  • Edward Said, Orientalism (1978)
  • Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, Decolonizing the Mind (1986)
  • Aimé Cesaire, Discourse on Colonialism (1950)
  • Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Death of a Discipline (Columbia University Press, 2005)
  • Paul Gilroy, Postcolonial Melancholia (Columbia University Press, 2006). Review.
  • Walidah Imarisha, Rewriting the Future (2015)
  • Pheng Cheah, What is a World? On Postcolonial Literature as World Literature (Duke UP, 2016). Review.
  • Dianne Otto, Postcolonialism and Law? (2000) 15 Third World Legal Studies, vii-xviii.
  • Eve Darian-Smith, Post-colonial Theories of Law, in: R.Banakar/M.Travers, Law and Social Theory (2nd, 2013).
  • E. Darian-Smith/P.McCarty, The Global Turn: Theories, Research Designs and Methods for Global Studies (2017).

Schedule 2017-18 

Readings to be confirmed shortly.

Term 1

  • Wednesday 4 October: Iain Crichton-Smith, Consider the Lilies (1987)
  • Wednesday 25 October: JM Coetzee, Waiting for the Barbarians (1981). Optional: Michel Tournier, Friday, or the other Island (1967); Mukuma Wa Ngugi, Nairobi Heat (2011)**
  • Wednesday 22 November: Achmat Dangor, Bitter Fruit (2005)


  • Wednesday 23 January 2018: Leila Aboulela, The Translator (1999)
  • Wednesday 7 February 2018: Sonallah Ibrahim, That Smell (1966) / Scott Anderson, Fractured Lands (2017) *Cancelled*
  • Wednesday 28 February 2018: Salem Haddad, Guapa (2016). Optional: Mario Vargas Llosa, The Dream of the Celt (2010); Guardian review*Cancelled*
  • Wednesday 21 March 2018: Thanhha Lai, Inside Out and Back Again (2013). Optional: Mohsen Hamid, Exit West (2016)/Amitav Ghosh, The Great Derangement (2016).
  • Wednesday 4 April 2018: Salem Haddad, Guapa (2016). *Cancelled*


* See, for example, this website announcement of themes to be covered in the GS project at UoV: “Race and ethnicity, diaspora, migration and immigration, global health, urban lives and landscapes, mediascapes and cultural flows, literary and language worlds, cartographies and spaces, oceanic connections, global religions, climate change, food security and environment, revolution and political thought, war, violence and humanitarianism, cultures of human rights, art and performance, pre-modern and early modern global cultures, and digital access and inequities.” Meanwhile, see the list of U.S. College Summer Readings here.

** Background: Intizar Hussain, Basti (2012); José Eustasio Rivera, The Vortex (1924, re-release April 2018); Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967)

2016 - 2017

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 WorldThe 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).

2015 - 2016

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.

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)

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