Foreword: Transdisciplinary Conflict of Laws

18 Pages Posted: 2 Jun 2009 Last revised: 16 Jul 2009

See all articles by Karen Knop

Karen Knop

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law

Ralf Michaels

Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law

Annelise Riles

Cornell University - Law School

Date Written: June 2, 2009


This introduction to our co-edited special issue of Law and Contemporary Problems addresses how interdisciplinary studies might contribute to the revitalization of the field of Conflict of Laws. The introduction surveys existing approaches to interdisciplinarity in conflict of laws - drawn primarily from economics, political science, anthropology and sociology. It argues that most of these interdisciplinary efforts have remained internal to the law, relating conflicts to other legal spheres and issue areas. It summarizes some of the contributions of these projects but also outlines the ways they fall short of the full promise of interdisciplinary work in Conflicts scholarship, and indeed often replicate the very shortfalls of Conflicts doctrine that they set out to overcome. Drawing on examples from the symposium, the article then argues that there is much to be gained - in both law and other fields - from a more "external" interdisciplinarity that engages nonlegal disciplines such as economics, political science, and anthropology in a more serious and sustained way. It outlines a number of ways cross-disciplinary engagement, like the kind in this symposium, can push the project further: by approaching the study of conflicts through its discourse and imagery, through the historical and present-day context of colonialism, and through ethnographies that detail how its doctrines are experienced and produced in the real world. The final section discusses how the interdisciplinary insights yielded by the symposium might provide a richer and more productive techniques and practices for addressing conflict of laws problems.

Keywords: conflict of laws, private international law, legal theory, colonialism, feminism, anthropology, legal history

Suggested Citation

Knop, Karen and Michaels, Ralf and Riles, Annelise, Foreword: Transdisciplinary Conflict of Laws (June 2, 2009). Law and Contemporary Problems, Vol. 71, No. 3, 2008; Duke Law School Public Law & Legal Theory Paper No. 252; Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 09-015. Available at SSRN:

Karen Knop

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law ( email )

84 Queen's Park
Toronto, Ontario M5S 2C5
4169784035 (Phone)
4169787899 (Fax)

Ralf Michaels (Contact Author)

Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law ( email )

Mittelweg 187
Hamburg, D-20148

Annelise Riles

Cornell University - Law School ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States

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