Document Type


Publication Date



United Nations, UN, Diplomacy, International relations, International Court of Justice, ICJ, Academics and practitioners of international law


International Law | Legal History


This article draws upon one year of ethnographic research at United Nations conferences to challenge some common academic assumptions about what it means to "do" international law. The article compares the work of academic international lawyers - founded in making models of an international system - to the work of practitioners - exemplified by the work of making documents, and demonstrates the particular, peculiar nature of each kind of knowledge, from the point of view of the observer. This leads to a set of conclusions concerning how an academic study of international law influenced by an appreciation of the particularity of its own aesthetics might be transformed to accommodate other understandings of what it means to practice international law.


This article predates the author's affiliation with Cornell Law School.

Publication Citation

Published in: International and Comparative Law Quarterly, vol. 48, no. 4 (October 1999).