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Ways of Seeing International Law: Theories, Frames, and the Everyday Life of International Law(yers)


Admission requirements

Required course(s):

None, but completion of Principles of Public International Law is recommended.


How communities see international law can have a bearing on how international law is understood, contested, critiqued, and practised around the world. This course invites participants to engage with international law from a range of observational viewpoints by introducing different theories (e.g., Third World Approaches to International Law, queer, and Marxist), frames (e.g., counterstorytelling, counterfactuals, and cognitive biases), and everyday dimensions of international law(yers) (e.g., objects, portraits, and backstage practices). Relying on case studies from a diversity of fields of international law (including international criminal law, international humanitarian law, law on the use of force, international economic law, international environmental law, international migration law, transitional justice, international human rights law, and digital technology and international law), the course seeks to engage participants in a process of reflexivity, with the hope of generating greater (self-)awareness and critical (self-)reflection on the importance of thinking about how and from where we think when engaging with questions of international law.

Course Objectives


  • Gain an insight into different theoretical approaches to international law, including their development over time and possible critiques

  • Engage with different (invisible) frames that have shaped and continue to influence international legal practices and knowledge production across time and space

  • Develop an insight into the everyday life of international law through examining a selection of objects, portraits and/or backstage practices of international law(yers)


  • Critically reflect on the theories and frames discussed during the course by preparing short written reflections on course readings and class discussions

  • Critically examine, orally present, and nurture discussions on tensions and challenges revealed by the application of particular theoretical approaches to case studies

  • Apply legal research and writing skills by writing a blog post on a topical issue, situation, or case in the field of international law drawing on the theories, frames, and/or everyday dimensions of international law(yers) discussed during the course


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2023-2024 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

This course uses a variety of teaching methods, including interactive discussions, student-led class debates, and research assignments. Before each class students are required to have read the compulsory readings and considered any accompanying discussion questions in preparation for the session. Active participation in class is expected.

Assessment Method

  • Class Participation (including written journal entries) – 12% – Ongoing Weeks 1-7

  • Critical Debate Leadership – 18% – Weeks 2-6

  • Everyday Life of International Law(yers) Portfolio – 25% (18% for portfolio, 7% for presentation) – Week 7

  • Blog Post – 45% – Week 8

Please note:

  • In accordance with article 4.8 of the Course and Examination Regulations (OER), within 30 days after the publication of grades, the instructor will provide students the opportunity to inspect their exams/coursework.

  • There is a no re-sit policy at Leiden University College.

Reading list

A complete list of required reading materials will be made available prior to the start of the course.

For background reading, the following texts are recommended:

  • Berger, J., Ways of Seeing (Penguin 2008 [1972])

  • Bianchi, A., International Law Theories: An Inquiry into Different Ways of Thinking (OUP 2016)

  • d’Aspremont, J., and Singh, S., Concepts for International Law: Contributions to Disciplinary Thought (Edward Elgar 2019)

  • Bianchi, A., and Hirsch, M. (eds), International Law’s Invisible Frames: Social Cognition and Knowledge Production in International Legal Processes (OUP 2021)

  • Hohmann, J., and Joyce, D. (eds), International Law’s Objects (OUP 2018)

  • Tallgren, I., (ed.), Portraits of Women in International Law: New Names and Forgotten Faces (OUP 2023)

  • Boer, L.J.M., and Stolk, S. (eds), Backstage Practices of Transnational Law (Routledge 2019)

In addition, a very engaging podcast that discusses a range of themes and perspectives related to this course is Borderline Jurisprudence, accessible here.


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr. Barrie Sander,