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Interpretive Communities in International Law

Forthcoming in A. Bianchi, D. Peat and M. Windsor (eds) Interpretation in International Law (Oxford University Press) INTRODUCTION

University of Cambridge Faculty of Law Research Paper No. 62/2014

40 Pages Posted: 24 Oct 2014  

Michael Waibel

University of Cambridge - Faculty of Law; Lauterpacht Centre for International Law; University of Cambridge - Jesus College

Date Written: October 1, 2014

Abstract

This chapter explores how the wide range of interpreters that populate international law, forming part of interpretive communities, affects interpretation in international law. To understand how interpretation in international law works in practice, we need to appreciate the role of interpretive communities in the interpretive process — an influence that is routinely overlooked. To look only at interpretive directions, such as the principles of interpretation found in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (VCLT), is insufficient. Any account of interpretation is incomplete without the sociological dimension of interpretive communities. The meaning of international law norms hinges on background principles shared by interpreters who form part of one or several interpretive communities. The focus is not on individual interpreters, but rather on the relationship among interpreters. Individual and group identity, the background and the shared understandings of interpreters are key ingredients in the interpretive process.

This chapter first discusses the character of interpretive communities (Part I), before showing how practices and shared understandings within those interpretive communities shape interpretation (Part II). Part III contends that interpretive debates in international law are a contest between various actors over which normative vision of international law to advance in various issue areas.

Keywords: Interpretation, treaties, interpretive communities, epistemic communities, specialization, fragmentation, regimes, interpretive methods

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Waibel, Michael, Interpretive Communities in International Law (October 1, 2014). Forthcoming in A. Bianchi, D. Peat and M. Windsor (eds) Interpretation in International Law (Oxford University Press) INTRODUCTION; University of Cambridge Faculty of Law Research Paper No. 62/2014. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2513411

Michael Waibel (Contact Author)

University of Cambridge - Faculty of Law ( email )

10 West Road
Cambridge, CB3 9DZ
United Kingdom

Lauterpacht Centre for International Law ( email )

5 Cranmer Road
Cambridge, CB3 9BL
United Kingdom

University of Cambridge - Jesus College ( email )

Jesus Lane
Cambridge, CB5 8BL
United Kingdom

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