I was experiencing different communities of international lawyers in different states who had different understandings of and approaches to the field.
The acclaim for the latest book by ANU Law alumna, Associate Professor Anthea Roberts, continues, with Is International Law International? nominated for the long list of the Council for the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (CHASS) 2018 Australia Prize.
“I am delighted to make the CHASS book prize long list for this year,” Professor Roberts says.
“The prize is for writers who have contributed the most to Australian intellectual and cultural life. Although this book is written about international law, many people have commented that it could only have been written by someone from a semi-periphery state like Australia because of the perspective it provides.
“I think that being a state with a strong Western heritage in the Asia-Pacific region certainly contributed to my interest in different national and regional approaches to international law, and how the rise of Asia is going to change the existing balance of power that underpins international law.”
Professor Roberts, who is part of the ANU College of Asia & the Pacific’s School for Regulation and Global Governance (Regnet), explains she wrote the book in two stretches.
“The first draft was written over a year in 2014 while I was teaching at Columbia Law School in the United States. I then took maternity leave and completed the second draft of the book during my first year at RegNet in 2016.
“The motivation for writing the book came from studying, teaching and working as an international lawyer in three states – Australia, the US and the UK – and realising that even though we were supposedly doing a universal subject, I was experiencing different communities of international lawyers in different states who had different understandings of and approaches to the field.
“This made me question how universal the field actually was and what it might look like for international lawyers coming from states that were more different to my own, like China and Russia.”
Asked what advice she’d give Early Career Researchers, Professor Roberts has a few rules that she lives by while juggling writing, teaching, and life.
“First, try to set your own agenda,” she says. “You will be asked to give talks and write on all sorts of things and it can really splinter your time and focus. It is better to try to work out your own agenda of what you want to write and to try to guard your time so you can focus on that as a priority.
“Second, work out when your best time is for writing and try to protect that time. I write best in the mornings so I never by choice schedule meetings for the morning (though I of course attend them if others schedule them then. I try to protect that time as much as possible and use times when I am less good at writing – like the middle of the afternoon – to do meetings and read materials.
“Third, if you are stuck, don't keep hitting your head against a brick wall. Take time out and go for a walk. Often inspiration comes when you relax your mind and take your focus off what is troubling you. One thing I love about the ANU campus is that it is possible to walk down to the lake and look at trees, mountains and rabbits when the words are just not coming or organising themselves in the way that you would like.
“Finally, take the night off and the weekend too! Seriously, you will be fresher in the morning and on Monday if you do and you and your family will also be happier”.
Professor Roberts says she’s been really touched by the response to her book.
“I am currently in Europe giving presentations on the book at places like the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court, NATO, the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the European Commission. It is great to get the insights from these places about how they understand and approach the field.
“But what touches me most is the very personal emails and approaches I have received from international lawyers young and old from a great variety of countries who have experienced first-hand what it is that I am talking about and tell me their stories.
“In some way, by opening the book with my own story, it was like giving an invitation to others to share their stories and I am very grateful for that experience.”
The winners of the CHASS Australia prizes will be announced in Melbourne on 29 October.