Portrait of Dr Luis Eslava

Dr Luis Eslava

Reader in International Law
Director of PGR Funding and Admissions
Co-Director Centre for Critical International Law (CeCIL)


Luis teaches and researches in the areas of International Law, International Legal Theory and History, International Development, International Human Rights Law, Comparative Public Law, Anthropology of International Law, Global Governance and Global Political Economy, and Urban Law and Politics. Luis is an active member of the network Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL).
Bringing together insights from anthropology, history and legal and social theory, his work focuses on the multiple ways in which international norms, aspirations and institutional practices, both old and new, come to shape and become part of our everyday life, arguing that closer critical attention needs to be paid to this co-constitutive relationship between international law ‘up there’ and life ‘down here’.
In this spirit, his publications advance a series of new methodological parameters and applied case studies that aim to shed light on the simultaneously ideological and material, ground-level work that is done, each day, by international law, inviting the reader, in turn, to question what our response to it should be.
Luis is also a Senior Fellow at Melbourne Law School, an International Professor at Universidad Externado de Colombia, and a core member of the teaching faculty at Harvard Law School’s Institute for Global Law and Policy.
Luis is also a Co-Director of International Law and Politics Collaborative Research Network at the Law and Society Association (LSA) and a member of the editorial boards of Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development; the Latin American Law Review; and Contexto: Revista de Derecho Económico.

Research interests

Following his interest on the constitutive power of the international legal order and its shaping of global life, Luis has studied over the recent years the long-standing relation between international law and imperialism; the history of the international development project; and the nature of the state in the Global South. Part of this body of work has focused on the recent emergence of cities on the international scene. His fieldwork in this area has taken place in Bogotá, Rio de Janeiro, Istanbul, and most recently in Cali, Colombia. 

Luis has also paid attention to new forms of international intervention in the Global South (for example, the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility); the reach and limits of human rights; and the changing nature of the global legal and economic order and its impact on questions of sacrality, universality, resistance, revolution and Third World engagements with international law. 

Research interest highlights

  • International Law
  • International Legal Theory and History
  • International Development
  • International Human Rights Law
  • Comparative Public Law
  • Anthropology of International Law
  • Global Governance
  • Urban Law and Politics

Research Projects

Luis’s recent and current projects include: 

Broken Worlds: New Poverty, Law and Youth Violence – Luis is currently writing a book on the changing nature of global poverty. Engaging with this ‘new poverty’ and its relationship to youth violence, it offers a diagnosis of the dramas that have come to characterise life in the South, and in the increasing number of Souths in the developed world. 

International Law and Development - together with Sundhya Pahuja (Melbourne Law School) and Ruth Buchanan (Osgoode), Luis is co-editing The Oxford Handbook of International Law and Development (OUP, forthcoming 2022). 

Security and Development Today – as part of a British Academy sponsored international collaboration lead by Kent Law School, Luis worked with Lina Buchely (ICESI, Colombia) on a join project on new practices associated to the management of petty crime in the Global South (2015 -2018). The outcome of this project is a paper entitled ‘Security and Development? A Story about Petty Crime, the Petty State and its Petty Law’ (2019) 67 Revista de Estudios Sociales 40. 

Imperial Locations – together with Liliana Obregón and Martti Koskenniemi, Luis co-edited a Symposium on Imperial Locations in the Leiden Journal of International Law (2018). This symposium brought together a series of cutting edge explorations on the dynamic and broad operation of imperialism and the international legal order. 

The 60th Anniversary of Bandung – to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Bandung Conference, and together with Vasuki Nesiah (NYU) and Michel Fakhri (Oregon), Luis co-edited the volume, Bandung, Global History and International Law: Critical Pasts and Pending Futures, published by Cambridge University Press in 2017

History, Anthropology and the Archive of International Law (The HAAIL Project) – together with Madelaine Chiam (Melbourne), Genevieve Painter (Concordia), Rose Parfitt (Kent) and Charlotte Peevers (UTS), Luis is engaged on a long collaboration on the methodological and analytical implications of bringing together the fields of history, anthropology and international law. The first outcome of this collaboration is a Special Issue on the First World War published in the London Review of International Law (2017).


His teaching responsibilities span across Law and International Development, Public International Law and International Human Rights Law.


Luis supervises and benefits enormously from a group of wonderful graduate researchers at Kent Law School and other institutions, all of them doing research on the past, present and possible futures of the global order. At the moment he is supervising projects on the history of international human rights law and its impact on social security provisions in Brazil (Rafael Baltar, Catholic University of Pernambuco); on state-based resistance in the international legal order using the Non-Aligned Movement as a case study (Mateja Koltaj, KLS); the operation and challenges posed by international discourses around waste, waste collection and development in the South today (Allison Lindner, KLS); the intricacies of water use, trade and management for our conceptualization of power and international law (Mia Tamarin, KLS); and the challenges posed by novel forms of counter-terrorist practices to traditional conceptualizations of international law (Ahmed Memon, KLS).

Past students graduated:

  1. Dr Eric Loefflad: ‘Popular Will and International Law: The Expansion of Capitalism, The Question of Legitimate Authority, and The Universalisation of The Nation-State’ (2019)
  2. Dr Jimena Sierra: ‘Law, Development and Extractivism: The Contest for Gold in Colombia in a Context of Global Coloniality’ (2019) (In Spanish: Derecho, Desarrollo y Extractivismo: La Disputa por el Oro en Colombia en un Contexto de Colonialidad Global)
  3. Dr Paulo Bacca: ‘Indigenizing International Law: Inverse Legal Anthropology in the Age of Jurisdictional Double Binds’ (2019)
  4. Dr Silvana Tapia: ‘Criminalising Violence Against Women: Feminism, Penalty and Rights in Post-Neoliberal Ecuador’ (2017)


Editorial Work

  • Editorial Board member, The Latin American Law Review (2017 – current)
  • Editorial Board member, Humanity (2016 – current)
  • Editorial Board member, Revista Derecho del Estado (2014 – current)
  • Editorial Board member, Revista de Derecho Económico (2010 – current) 

Professional Societies 

  • Law and Society Association
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