Global Civil Society - and the Coloniality of Global Constitutionalism

"The Coloniality of Global Constitutionalism? The Case of Constitution-Making in Post-Conflict Kosovo" 

 In June 1999, the United Nations (UN) deployed one of the largest peacebuilding missions in the history of the organization, the UN interim mission to Kosovo (UNMIK). Only a few months into UNMIK’s mandate, the UN Secretary General vested all executive, legislative and judicial powers in its head of mission. The boundary between international law and constitutional law in post-intervention Kosovo effectively collapsed. The UN administration in Kosovo at the time of deployment was anticipated to be terminated within three years. In the end, the UNMIK would serve as the ultimate authority in Kosovo until the passing of the unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) by Kosovo’s assembly in 2008 and the adoption of a new constitution in the same year. The Security Council, however, failed to adopt a new resolution to change the mandate of UNMIK and in consequence the mission would still be in place after Kosovo’s independence. Constitutional law established through the UDI and international authority established through the UN mandate in consequence clashed. This seminar revisits the collapsed boundary between international and constitutional law from the end of NATO’s intervention in the conflict until today where two legal orders – one grounded in international law, the other in Kosovo’s constitution – are in place, initiating a conflict over the hierarchy of laws and, ultimately, sovereignty. Drawing on extended fieldwork in Kosovo, I reconstruct failed attempts to enact the separation of international and constitutional law and contests over this boundary in the name of constructing a domestic polity and placing international actors outside and beyond the domestic constitutional order. I show how Kosovo’s constitution in 2008 came to reflect earlier international ‘constitutional’ regulations adopted by the UN mission and ultimately became a constitution by international decree. Retrieving lesser-known stories about international involvement in constitutional transformation serves to redress an often positive and positivist account of the role of international law in constitution-making in a peacebuilding context.

Bio: Dr Maj Grasten is Assistant Professor in the Department of Business and Politics, Copenhagen Business School. Her research sits at the intersection of International Relations and International Law, with a particular focus on experts and knowledge production in international law and on post-intervention state-building processes. Her research draws mainly on the method of multi-sited ethnography. She has been a visiting fellow at Freie Universität Berlin, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, and Kosovar Institute for Policy Research and Development (KIPRED). Between June and September 2017, she is a Kathleen Fitzpatrick Visiting Fellow with the Laureate Program in International Law at Melbourne Law School. Maj is currently affiliated with the research project ‘Civil Society in the Shadow of the State’ (CISTAS) for which she leads research on the role of civil society actors in international law's expansion and fragmentation. She is a board member of the European International Studies Association (EISA). Her research has recently been published in Journal of International Relations and Development and an edited volume on The Power of Legality (Cambridge University Press, 2016). She is currently editing a volume on the politics of translation in international relations.

Chair: Anna DZIEDZIC

If you wish to join us at the Brown Bag, please RSVP (essential) to Amy Johannes ( You are most welcome to bring your lunches to the Brown Bag and Amy will take coffee orders on the morning before we meet.

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