In this lecture, Immi Tallgren will discuss her new collection: Portraits of Women in International Law: New Names and Forgotten Faces? In it, she introduces forty-two textual and visual portraits of individuals or groups: professors of law, judges, diverse assistants, civil society activists, legal experts, diplomats, wives, librarians, novelists, and philosophers from all continents from the fourteenth century onwards.
The exhibition addresses both the slow and partial inclusion of ‘women’ in the spheres of knowledge and power in international law and their scarce and delayed recognition as capable of developing ideas, doctrinal analysis, and institutional practice in international law histories and practices of reminiscence. Instead of deploring ‘women’ for their predicament of cumulative disadvantages or ignoring them, as most current histories do, the volume presents new images of history, figuring agents, ideas, causes, norms, and social practices that were, could have or should have been relevant to ‘international law’. Little attention is paid to formal education or professional titles as most women were not, until recently, allowed to adhere to legal professions, and in many parts of the world still struggle to get properly educated and exercise salaried activities. Similarly, the understanding of authorship is widened to comprise ‘authors from below’: diverse adjuncts and assistants, journalists, artists, librarians, and civil society activists.
Animated by an ambition to disrupt and transform the dominant gendered, racialized, and classed collective images of history in international law, the volume calls for the critical questioning of reductive histories, their biased frames, and tacit assumptions. Whilst suggesting that there are many new names and forgotten faces to discover to enrich the understanding of international law, the volume remains cautious of essentialism, hagiographies, and simplification. By contesting the intellectual and social hierarchies of gendered, racialized, and class-based discrimination in (the intellectual and professional histories of) international law, the re-curation calls for a new orientation of research, opening the horizon for not just richer histories but also different futures.