Process-Tracing the Meaning of International Human Rights Law
Forthcoming, Rossana Deplano and Nicholas Tsagourias Eds., Handbook on Research Methods in International Law (Elgar, 2019).
Posted: 10 Oct 2018
Date Written: September 12, 2018
This chapter argues that process-tracing, a qualitative methodology for conducting case studies, has much to contribute to the socio-legal study of international law. Process-tracing is the meticulous tracing of links between possible causes and outcomes based on a large amount of data from a variety of sources. Drawing examples from two studies conducted by the author in the field of international human rights law, the chapter illustrates how this methodology can shed light on the social forces shaping international norms and the social impact of international legal mechanisms. Moreover, the chapter argues that process-tracing is particularly useful in those inter-disciplinary projects that seek to account for the social meaning of legal doctrine, procedure and institutional structure. This is because the high resolution it provides, together with the rich contextualization of case-studies, allow the researcher to pinpoint the part played by legal form in the studied phenomenon.
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