Inculcating International Law: the Textbook as Gateway

16 Pages Posted: 3 Apr 2019

Date Written: September 13, 2018


International students struggle with the lack of hierarchy and enforcement, and the apparent differences between international law and the domestic legal system to which they have been exposed. Sometimes, by drawing analogies with these domestic systems, they impose a legal form that is incommensurable with the reality of international legal structures. Newcomers to international law are altogether perplexed by the very concepts of international legal normativity and how they can be reconciled with insights from other disciplines. In short, textbooks are the vehicle through which the next generation will be initiated into the international legal profession.

This paper shares some insights on the writing of an international law textbook that emerged during the writing process. In particular, it focusses on the challenge on how to reconcile the essentially Western, imperial, and colonial heritage of modern international law with a genuine desire to avoid simply reproducing that process of Westernisation. The Eurocentric narrative of international law as a universal legal order is part of its founding myth, and has been integral to the reception and acceptance of international law outside the West. Excavating that myth is a valuable part of international law teaching and scholarship, and not one that can be simply ignored.

Keywords: Education, teaching, comparativism, Eurocentrism, invisible college, pluralism, sources, method

Suggested Citation

Hernandez, Gleider I, Inculcating International Law: the Textbook as Gateway (September 13, 2018). European Society of International Law (ESIL) 2018 Annual Conference (Manchester), Available at SSRN: or

Gleider I Hernandez (Contact Author)

KU Leuven ( email )

Tiensestraat 41
Leuven, 3000

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