Global Governance
12 September 2019

Nico Krisch Awarded the Max Planck-Cambridge Prize for International Law

On 15 November 2019 Professor Nico Krisch will receive the inaugural Max Planck-Cambridge Prize for International Law, awarded by the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law of Heidelberg and the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law at the University of Cambridge. This prize honours him for his work on postnational law and beyond, in which he not only identifies and theorises problems but also develops potential solutions. We seized upon this occasion to interview him on his interdisciplinary research paths. 

Your research focuses on the structure of “postnational law” – the legal order that emerges from the blurring of the boundaries between the domestic and the trans- and international. Does this will to go beyond boundaries explain why a jurist like you became codirector of the Global Governance Centre, which is “interdisciplinary by nature”?

I started my career in a rather traditional vein, doing a doctorate in law in Heidelberg and surrounded by a traditional German-European mentality of the profession, focused on the interpretation of international law. This shifted when I spent a few years as a postdoctoral researcher at New York University – American legal scholars consider law to be a more capacious field of study than most Europeans do, and this inspired me to explore a broader range of questions. I strengthened my interest in law and politics, in particular questions related to power and international law. I also developed a deeper interest in global regulation and governance issues with the Global Administrative Law Research Project.

After my return to Europe, I continued down that path which has allowed me to do work that links law and legitimacy and the politics behind the law. This, in turn, has facilitated my engagement with scholars from other disciplines, especially political scientists, political theorists, and sociologists. I have always found interdisciplinary linkages interesting and have worked on a number of projects that have brought together people from various disciplines. For example, I organised the multidisciplinary Barcelona Workshop on Global Governance for several years, and I worked with a political science colleague in Berlin to conduct a project on subsidiarity in global governance. Perhaps that is how I find myself at the Global Governance Centre.
You were recently awarded the biannual Max Planck-Cambridge Prize for International Law. In your opinion, what did the Prize Committee want to reward with this prize?

I can only speculate as to why I was awarded this extraordinary prize! From what the two institutions write in their news piece, it seems they want to reward especially my work at the intersection between international law, constitutional theory and political science. This is very reassuring – it signals that the discipline is evolving and that the prize is not awarded primarily for excellence in the traditional forms of interpreting international legal rules but rather for the exploration of the boundaries of international law, of its broader context of transnational governance as well as the political environment in which it is situated.
What has been the particular input that the Graduate Institute has offered you for the development of your scholarly research?

The Graduate Institute is a fantastic place for interdisciplinary studies and provides an ample scope of opportunities to explore the linkages between different disciplines, also because the disciplines themselves have a wide variety of internal approaches of their own.

In this sense, being at the Graduate Institute – and especially at the Global Governance Centre – has been a continuous process of learning and exploring unknown or neglected issues, as well as literatures I had not encountered before. This has helped me to ask new questions about the law and to pursue research projects that otherwise would be difficult to conceive of. Both my current research projects – on “Interface Law” and on “The Paths of International Law” – involve faculty members from other departments, and the proximity between us is an enormous stimulus.

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Read also an interview with Professor Krisch on his article “Law and Polity: Contingency, Fiction, Loss” here.

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Interview by Ana Beatriz Balcazar-Moreno, PhD candidate in International Law; editing by Nathalie Tanner, Research Office.
Banner image: excerpt from a painting by Claude Monet [Public domain].