Research Projects

Research at IGLP is organized in multi-year projects spearheaded by our affiliated faculty. Together, these projects provide a focal point at Harvard Law School for new thinking in the fields of comparative law, global governance and international law.

Harvard and IGLP affiliated faculty interested in developing a new IGLP research project should send a brief e-mail outlining their project to [email protected]. We are also proud of the collaborative research activities of our IGLP alumni. You can learn more about their projects on the Collaborative Research Grants page.

Our current research projects include:

Corporate Power in Global Society: Explication, Critique, Engagement, and Resistance
This project, convened by Dan Danielsen (Northeastern University School of Law), Dennis Davis (High Court of Cape Town), and Jason Jackson (Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania), explores the role of law in the construction, operation and governance of global value chains and production networks: structures that have been theorized by sociologists and political economists to map the disaggregated modes of production that comprise much of modern global capitalism. This research is focused on examining how diverse local, national, regional, international and transnational legal regimes, together with cultural norms and business practices, shape the expectations, background entitlements, institutional forms and bargaining positions of various players in global production networks. Taken into consideration are how legal entitlements and normative expectations interact with material factors of production to produce particular forms of commercial relations as well as particular attributions of power and value creation. The group also explores how those legal rules and norms come to shape value chain governance, including the allocation of economic surplus and power, as well as the perceived limits of possible regulatory interventions to distribute rents more equitably or to reduce adverse externalities that result from a networked organization of production.

Expertise and Governance
This project aims to strengthen research linking efforts to understand the role of expertise in global governance among IGLP scholars with parallel work undertaken in the Science and Technology Studies field.  The focal point for collaboration has been a series of lectures, research workshops and an inter-faculty reading group organized by IGLP Director David Kennedy and Sheila Jasanoff of the Kennedy School.   Questions under discussion include: Who are experts, whom do they represent, what are the sources of their authority, and how can expertise be held accountable? What kinds of institutions employ expertise, and what are the organizational characteristics of such institutions? How does the growing global reliance on experts affect the quality, effectiveness, and accountability of public policy and governance? Through readings and/or presentations from several fields—including law, anthropology, history, sociology, and science and technology studies—the reading group considers the ways expertise is defined, constituted, challenged, defended, or defeated in contemporary societies.  The research initiative is supported by a seminar jointly taught by Jasanoff and Kennedy at HLS and KSG each spring.

Global Genealogy of Family Laws
The rise of colonialism, capitalism, liberalism, modernity and nationalism across much of the world was strongly inflected by the idea that legal and social life divides naturally into two opposite orders – the market and the family.  The idea was that the market was or should be governed by contract law that would ideally be uniform across the world and that would enable contracts giving effect to the will of the parties; while the family was or should be governed by family law that gave effect to the spirit of each national people and that enforced interpersonal duties.  The idea is so pervasive that it seems inevitable that commercial law will be uniform and western everywhere and that family life, gender and sexuality will be local and “different.” It also is so structural that it helps to explain how political economy imagines itself to encompass everything crucial about global governance while chronically “forgetting” the family, gender and sexuality.  This IGLP project, led by HLS professor Janet Halley, seeks to compare the spread of this idea and its various implementations across the world, both in the formation of colonial relations and in the breakdown of the colonial system. We believe that by understanding it genealogically and comparatively, we can better pry away the glue fixing us to it even today. On May 10 -11, 2013, the IGLP co-sponsored the policy roundtable, “Next Left: Framing a New Narrative”, in Barcelona, Spain. The event explored topics such as restoring sense of politics, distinguishing modern progressivism, and building a welfare society.

Bandung and the Global South: 60 Years of Transformative International Law
The Bandung Conference of April 1955 brought together twenty-five countries to oppose colonialism and neocolonialism and develop forms of political, economic and cultural cooperation across the Third World. The legacies of the Bandung Conference have long reach within critical traditions in international law. This project brings together scholars who have been influenced by the Bandung Conference and seeks to provide an opportunity for them to reflect on the legacies of the conference that animate their work today and the ways they can think about alternative futures going forward.

There are many intersecting and overlapping conversations that Bandung inspires amongst critical international law scholars. Some contributions will provide more historical analysis on the conference and its milieu; others will focus on more contemporary themes that resonate with Bandung’s legacies of South-South cooperation and anti-imperialism. Some ground their interventions in Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL); others may locate it within the many spaces after nationalism in their countries. The project has been defined quite broadly to enable a range of different kinds of contributions with the goal of producing a scholarly volume for publication. This project has been organized by Vasuki Nesiah of our Academic Council with the support of IGLP Docents Luis Eslava and Michael Fakhiri.

The members of this project convened at Harvard Law School in June 2014, including: Raj Balakrishnan (United States) Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Arnulf Becker (Chile) Brown University, Matthew Craven (United Kingdom) SOAS, University of London, Luis Eslava (Australia) Melbourne University Law School, Michael Fakhri (Canada) University of Oregon School of Law, Robert Knox (United Kingdom) London School of Economics and Political Science, Vidya Kumar (Canada) University of Birmingham, Boris Mamlyuk (United States) University of Memphis School of Law, Vasuki Nesiah (United States) The Gallatin School, New York University, Sundhya Pahuja (Australia) Melbourne University Law School, Charlotte Peevers (United Kingdom) University of Technology Sydney, Akbar Rasulov (Uzbekistan) University of Glasgow, Hani Sayed (Syria) The American University in Cairo, Mohammad Shahabuddin (Bangladesh) Jahangrinagar University, Mai Taha (Egypt) University of Toronto.

Rethinking Law and Finance in the Global Economy
This project, organized by Christine Desan of our Advisory Council, focuses on the lessons of heterodox and institutionalist traditions in both economic and legal science for understanding global political economy in the aftermath of the crisis. We are particularly interested in the relationships among private law, private ordering, national regulation and opportunities for multilateral governance or coordination. We are exploring the significance of disarticulation and intended inefficiencies in global systems in avoiding systemic risk – when introduced both within the transnational governance of private financial institutions and through regulation. The project focuses on the legal structure of money, credit and financial liquidity. It considers capital dynamics as a matter engineered over time by different government, non‐governmental organizations and private actors, paying particular attention to the ways in which capital dynamics cross borders, studying the domestic and global dimensions of capital dynamics in tandem.


Our past research projects have included:

Heterodox Approaches to Islamic Law and Policy
This project, led by Intisar Rabb (Harvard Law School), Cyra Akila Choudhury (Florida International University College of Law), and Vanja Hamzić (University of London), explores current thinking in the field of Islamic Law and Policy. Specifically, it brings together a diverse group of established and emerging scholars to share critical and comparative methodologies and approaches to Islamic law and jurisprudence. Scholars from law, history, political science, anthropology, economics, and other social sciences share research on topics including Islamic legal thought, legal history, family law, finance, and the arts.
Global Financial Regulation
This project, which was supported by IGLP’s Leading Sponsor VISA International, encompassed inquiries into three related areas: liquidity in the global economy, including foundational research on the nature of global liquidity and capital as legal institutions; financial inclusion and banking services for the “unbanked” as an aspect of development policy; financial service regulation in emerging markets and alternative paths to economic development. Through a series of sponsored student and faculty research projects and public policy discussions, we sought to develop a transnational research network of young scholars and IGLP faculty working on research themes related to global financial regulation.  The initiative’s inaugural event was a policy workshop on March 30, 2012, which brought scholars from the IGLP network into sustained conversation with high-level government officials and industry representatives.  In August 2012, the IGLP convened a research mission and workshop in Bangkok focused on new financial services regulation and development strategies in the emerging markets of the ASEAN region. In 2012 and 2013, the initiative sponsored a competitive research grant program for young scholars.
The Next Left: The Challenges & Opportunities for Social Democratic Politics in a Global Economy
This project, which we co-sponsored with Dr. Alfred Gusenbauer (Former Chancellor of Austria) of our Honorary Council, encourages dialogue among those rethinking the politics of the left after globalization in various regions of the world, with a particular emphasis on the dynamics within Europe and between Europe and Latin America. The IGLP convened a meeting of the group at Harvard Law School in April 2012. On May 10 -11, 2013, the IGLP co-sponsored the policy roundtable, “Next Left: Framing a New Narrative”, in Barcelona, Spain. The event explored topics such as restoring a sense of politics, distinguishing modern progressivism, and building a welfare society.
Law and the New Developmental State
Law and the New Developmental State was a collaborative faculty project led by IGLP Advisory Council Member David Trubek that sought to examine the modern revival of the developmental state. Although state activism came under attack in the hey-day of neo-liberalism, states in many developing countries are once again actively promoting economic growth and social development. These initiatives build on prior experiences but often take new forms as states cope with the challenges of growth under conditions of globalization. This new state activism tends to be more export oriented, more concerned with competiveness and innovation, and more aware of the need for incomes policy. These “new” developmental states prefer to support and partner with the private sector rather than supplant it.  Such changes in state policy and practice have an impact on the legal order. They may make new uses of existing legal tools, deploy different enforcement practices, and create the need for new laws and new forms of governance. This project, co-sponsored with the network on Law and the New Developmental State (LANDS) explored relations between the legal order and new state policies in Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and Venezuela.  As part of this initiative the IGLP co-sponsored a seminar and research mission to Brazil in July 2013 which explored the emerging forms of new state activism in Brazil and elsewhere, examined the theoretical work in political economy that accompanied these turns in state policy, learned about the practice behind the “Brazilian policy-making factory”, the issues these developments had for the law and for the economy, and saw how the emerging law and development debate in Brazil related to global trends in the field. In July 2013, research done for the LANDS initiative resulted in the publication of “Law and the New Developmental State: The Brazilian Experience in Latin American Context“. The project was spear-headed by David Trubek (University of Wisconsin) in conjunction with other IGLP alumni including Diogo Coutinho (University of São Paulo Law School), Mario Schapiro (Fundação Getulio Vargas/São Paulo Law School), Shunko Rojas (Harvard Law School), Alvaro Santos (Georgetown Law School), Michelle Ratton Sanchez Badin (Fundação Getulio Vargas/ São Paulo Law School), and Helena Alviar Garcia (Universidad de los Andes Law School). The book explores the emergence of a new developmental state in Latin America and its significance for law and development theory.
Global Poverty and Heterodox Development Pathways: Mapping, Method and Critique
This Project, led by Lucie White (Harvard Law School) and Jeremy Perelman (Sciences Po Law School), was a collaborative effort among critical law and development scholars to present, map and critique alternative development pathways that are emerging in the confused phase of the post-Washington Consensus.  The initiative was launched as a Pro-Seminar in 2012 where members of the group presented short papers that tease out the methodological features of their respective approaches, as well as the distributional effects of the developmental pathways that they identify.In May 2014 The IGLP and Sciences Po Law School co-sponsored a Workshop in Paris, France, May 17-19, 2014 as part of our ongoing research project on Global Poverty and Heterodox Development Pathways. This workshop explored emerging ideas about organizing political economies that push back against global inequalities.Participants examined such emerging ideas in sectors of contemporary global political economies, such as finance, agriculture, industrial organization, supranational governance, political movement, and critique.