CfP: Critical Research in International Law (CRIL)

by | 25 Mar 2023

An intensive doctoral retreat in Fort Vuren, The Netherlands, 5-7 June 2023

What does it mean to be critical? Is it a core feature of any academic work or does the word signify a certain approach? Is it possible to be both critical and doctrinal at the same time and, if so, what would critical doctrinalism be like? What is the aim of critical legal research: to unveil the “true” meaning of the law, to expose power and hierarchy, to find arguments for policy change or perhaps all or any of these and even some more? Are critical insights merely useful to clarify and explain the law, or are they foundational to the project of international law and/or the project of research in international law? What is the relation between practice and theory and what does being critical have to do with it?

These and many other questions will be discussed at our sixth CRIL doctoral retreat, taking place in Fort Vuren in The Netherlands (see below), with support from the Hans Thornstedt foundation. The purpose of the retreat is to encourage participants to critically reflect on law and on their work and, most of all, to benefit from each other’s reflections. 

Following six very successful retreats in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021 (online) and 2022 with world-renowned scholars Martti Koskenniemi, Anne Orford, David Kennedy, Sundhya Pahuja and Tanja Aalberts, respectively, this retreat will be visited again by Professor Tanja Aalberts of VU Amsterdam, who is also co-organising the event with us. Tanja is Professor of Law and Security at the Faculty of Law, Vrije Universiteit. Her research focuses on the interplay between politics and law within global governance. 

In addition, there will be doctoral students from the Netherlands, the Nordic region and other selected universities as well as a secret guest. 

The applicants will submit texts of not more than 12 pages (5000 words) that will be discussed during the retreat. Each paper will be assigned to two discussants. The first one will present the paper as s/he understands the argument (which is a helpful exercise in determining the clarity of the text) and conclude with questions. The second commentator will provide further constructive critique. Each paper will be provided with 30-40 minutes discussion. More information on this will follow in a separate document closer to the retreat.

The retreat is organised by the Stockholm Centre for International Law and Justice (SCILJ) in cooperation with VU Amsterdam and coordinated by Daniel Pinheiro Astone for SCILJ and Keri van Douwen for VU Amsterdam. 

Fort Vuren is an old fort which is a part of the old Dutch water defence line, a UNESCO world heritage. During the retreat, we will also visit the Lovestein castle, where Hugo Grotius was held prisoner and wrote much of De jure belli ac Pacis. 


Interested participants shall submit a letter of interest (3-500 words) which explains 

a) why s/he is interested in participating in the retreat, 

b) what type of text s/he plans to submit (this is not binding) and 

c) how s/he would like to see that text discussed. 

Letters of interest shall be submitted by 02 April to Pål Wrange ( and to Please write ‘CRIL’ in the subject line. 

Participants will be notified by 07 April. Participants are expected to pay their own travel costs to Schiphol Airport (pick-ups to the conference venue will be organized) as well as lodging and meals (appr. € 400-500; the exact sum will be notified to you when you will be asked to confirm). 

We understand that most candidates will need to arrange financing after the selection and that an expression of interest may be subject to availability of funding.

Submission of papers

Two weeks in advance of the retreat, each participant shall submit a text of not more than 12 pages (5000 words), preferably extracts from current drafts of her/his thesis or ideas that s/he is formulating for the thesis. Those that have already presented at earlier CRIL retreats shall submit different texts from those previously discussed; draft post-doc projects might be appropriate for doctoral students close to their thesis submission. The page limit is to allow for in depth discussion of the ideas and to not overburden participants with reading. The texts can be stand-alone or complemented by brief memos, explaining why and how the text should be discussed. Consequently, we are not asking participants to provide fresh work, or final chapter drafts, but rather to bring texts on which they are currently working in the course of their doctoral projects or research ideas in development. 

In order to facilitate a useful discussion, each discussant must be aware of what the paper is “trying to accomplish”, so to speak. Therefore, each paper should contain an introduction which explains the status of the paper (a free-standing draft conference paper, a draft section of a thesis, etc) and puts the paper in the context of whatever larger research project the participant is pursuing. In particular, the research question has to be set out clearly. In addition, the participant should submit his/her brief reflections on how the paper relates to the theme of the retreat (critical research in international law). Try to be reader friendly, bearing in mind that the participants will come from different sub-fields of international law and have different theoretical backgrounds. 

Pål Wrange                                         

Professor and Director of the Stockholm               

Center for International Law and Justice               

Mark Klamberg

Professor and Co-Director of the Stockholm               

Center for International Law and Justice


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