Call for Papers, Conference: Changing Narratives of the Rule of Law: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives

Date: 28-29 January 2016

Hotel New York | Rotterdam, the Netherlands

In legal scholarship on rule of law, history seems mostly taken for granted. The prevailing presumption being that there is a universal linear trajectory towards the rule of law, and with it a march towards liberal substantive values such as human rights. Twenty-first century reality shows, however, that we can no longer assume that substantive values are shared, but need to incorporate pluralism. Recent scholarly work in this regard goes a step further in suggesting that the actual historical emergence and subsequent meaning of ‘rule of law’ is related to European identity formation and has more to do with the objective of stifling democratic movements. It is, therefore, necessary to appeal more systematically to the historical insights gathered during the last fifty years about the fictitious nature of an allegedly unproblematic linear trajectory towards the rule of law. A re-consideration of the historical narratives on the rule of law is also crucial in reconstructing its meaning to fit present-day problems. How can, for example, the European Union accommodate the pluralism of national traditions while at the same time making good on its promise to protect and enhance rule of law? This conference addresses these issues by revisiting the construction of ‘rule of law’ in the contexts of medieval, renaissance and colonial periods of European history, recent post-conflict societies across the world, and in the context of the interaction of the European Union and its recently-added member states.

This conference is held as a kick-off event for the newly inaugurated multi-disciplinary research project at Erasmus University Rotterdam, titled ‘Integrating Normative and Functional Approaches to Rule of Law and Human Rights’ (INFAR) which is initiated by Erasmus School of Law. Confirmed speakers include Prof. Kim Lane Scheppele (professor of sociology and international affairs, Princeton University), Prof. Jan Klabbers (professor of International Law, University of Helsinki), Prof. Nikolas Rajkovic (professor of international law, Tilburg University) and Prof. Robert von Friedeburg (professor of early modern history, Erasmus University).

Papers that address any of the above-mentioned issues are welcome. To apply, please submit a 300- 500 word abstract of your proposed paper. Please send your applications by email to Dr. Nathanael Ali, at by 16 December 2015. In your application email, please also include your full name, title, and institutional affiliation. Decisions on applications will be made within a week from the closing date. Limited funding will be available to provide support towards covering the costs of attending the conference for applicants who could not secure funding from their home institutions.

For any further enquiry, please contact the conference organizers Dr. Nathanael Ali ( and Prof. Sanne Taekema (

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