Introducing the TWAIL Review (TWAILR)

Laura Betancur-Restrepo, Amar Bhatia, Usha Natarajan, John Reynolds, Ntina Tzouvala & Sujith Xavier

Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL) is a movement encompassing scholars and practitioners of international law and policy who are concerned with issues related to the “Global South” in its broad conception. The scholarly agendas associated with TWAIL are diverse. They incorporate perspectives from across the fields of Third Worldist, Marxist and feminist thought, postcolonialism and decoloniality, Indigenous studies and critical race theory, and more. The common themes of TWAIL’s interventions are to unpack and deconstruct the colonial legacies of international law, and to engage in efforts to support the decolonisation of the lived realities of the peoples of the Global South and the rupture or radical transformation of the international order which governs their lives.1 Over the last twenty years, the TWAIL network has grown and flourished, encompassing thousands of people on all five continents. The TWAIL Review (TWAILR) is intended as the first continuous publication dedicated to the TWAIL network and to furthering its aims.

In the style of conventional law reviews, TWAILR will publish an annual series containing journal-length articles. Importantly, alongside this conventional content, TWAILR will publish year-around content that includes shorter reflective essays on both intellectual currents and current affairs in our field (TWAILR: Reflections), interviews with cutting-edge scholars and practitioners (TWAILR: Dialogues), as well as pieces comprised of or addressing non-traditional forms such as fiction and art of relevance to TWAIL (TWAILR: Extra).

TWAILR is a conscious endeavour to intervene in knowledge production about international law in a strategic way to help make our discipline truly internationalist in nature. While we value conventional scholarly forms, we realise that by themselves these cannot adequately reflect the full experience of international law and its impact in the world. Openness to different mediums and forms of expression mitigates against elite and exclusive disciplinary tendencies. In furtherance of TWAIL’s overall objectives, TWAILR aims to remain as accessible and readable as possible, particularly to those in the global South. With this in mind, TWAILR will be wholly online, without a parallel print publication, and is committed to remaining openly accessible without subscription. TWAILR aims for a representative, accountable, and non-hierarchical organisational structure. Our editorial collective will periodically rotate within the network, with the guiding principle that it remain broadly representative in terms of gender and geographical regions. While TWAILR begins as an English language publication, it hopes to diversify to other languages in coming years once the platform establishes itself.

By nature, international law is not a progressive discipline.2 It has proven itself useful to power, deeply conservative, and has struggled to tackle contemporary challenges. From poverty and inequality to migration and environmental destruction, from human rights and humanitarianism to economic development and redistribution, the challenges for international lawyers are urgent and multiplying. The ways that international lawyers have done things in the past have not helped mitigate these problems. On the contrary, in many ways our discipline has enabled them. Transformation and innovative responses are more likely if the discipline includes voices that were heretofore marginalised due to longstanding explicit and implicit biases along the lines of gender, race, class, and other markers of difference and exclusion. TWAILR is committed to fostering a more inclusive, creative, and productive engagement with international law through thinking by and with the sensibilities of Global South – which is to say, most of the world. By silencing or sidelining most of the world, mainstream international law has reflected neither the diversity of human experience nor the hybrid nature of our identities. For much of international law’s history, the Global South has figured predominantly as the recipient of its military, economic, political, cultural, and moral discipline. TWAILR encourages greater amplification of Third World thinking in shaping our disciplinary future, and in demanding knowledge production about international law that is more just, more radical, and more responsive to the collective challenges we face.

  1. Usha Natarajan, John Reynolds, Amar Bhatia and Sujith Xavier, ‘TWAIL: On Praxis and the Intellectual’ (2016) 37:11 Third World Quarterly 1946.
  2. See for example John Linarelli, Margot Salomon and M. Sornarajah, The Misery of International Law (Oxford University Press, 2018); Anne Orford, ‘Scientific Reason and the Discipline of International Law’ (2014) 25 European Journal of International Law 369; Hilary Charlesworth, ‘International Law: A Discipline of Crisis’ (2002) 65 The Modern Law Review 377.