Portrait of Dr Rose Parfitt

Dr Rose Parfitt

Senior Lecturer in Law


Dr Parfitt joined Kent Law School in April 2016. She has published widely in the fields of international law, legal history, critical theory and history of art, broadly speaking. Her first monograph, The Process of International Legal Reproduction: Historiography, Inequality, Resistance, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2019.
She received her doctorate in 2011 from SOAS (University of London). Between 2011 and 2013 was an Assistant Professor of International Law at the American University in Cairo. From 2013-2016 she was based at Melbourne Law School’s Institute for International Law and the Humanities, where her research was funded by a McKenzie Research Fellowship.
Dr Parfitt has been a member of the workshop teaching faculty at Harvard Law School’s Institute for Global Law and Policy (IGLP) since 2011, and has held visiting professorships at institutions including Melbourne Law School (Australia), Los Andes University (Colombia), Helsinki Law School (Finland), the University of Salento (Italy), Icesi (Colombia) and elsewhere. In July 2020, she has been invited to convene a seminar on social justice for SOMA Summer in Mexico City, an annual eight-week program for international artists, curators, critics, and art historians.

Research interests

Dr Parfitt’s research is focused on the development of new techniques aimed at uncovering, making sense of and challenging international law’s role in the creation and preservation of a world in which wealth, power and pleasure are distributed more and more unequally. Her work (both individual and collaborative) involves the bringing together of words, images and sounds – and of traditions dedicated to analysing words, images and sounds – in order to find more effective ways of getting at the legal past and its material consequences for the human and non-human world.
She was awarded a Discovery Early Career Research Award (DECRA) by the Australian Research Council in 2015, and between 2016 and 2019 led a multi-year research project entitled ‘International Law and the Legacies of Fascist Internationalism’ while on secondment to Melbourne Law School. In 2017 she established the ‘Fascism and the International’ Project – an ongoing series of counter-disciplinary international workshops aimed at developing a new, sharper set of tools with which to challenge the language and aesthetics of the twenty-first century ‘new right’.
The first of these workshops took place at the Museo de Arte Moderno in Mexico City (2017). The second, organised in collaboration with the sound art collective Liquid Architecture, the Italian Cultural Institute and Melbourne Law School’s Institute for International Law and the Humanities, took place at West Space in Melbourne (2018). The third workshop – which initiates a new project called ‘Interdisciplinarity as Resistance’ – will take place at Konstepidemin studios in Gothenburg, Sweden, in April 2020. Organised in collaboration Matilda Arvidsson and Hjalmar Falk at the University of Gothenburg, this third workshop is also supported by grants from the Socio-Legal Studies Association, Kent University’s Faculty Research Fund and the University of Gothenburg.
A new collaborative project, International law and the Challenge of Populism – with Richard Joyce (Law/Monash), Sundhya Pahuja (Law/Melbourne), Andrew Benjamin (Philosophy/Monash) and James Martel (Political Science/SFSU)- has just been selected by the Australian Research Council for one of its 2020 Discovery Project awards.
Together with Luis Eslava (KLS) and Markus Gunneflo (Lund), Dr Parfitt is the co-director of the ‘International Law and Politics’ Collaborative Research Network at the Law and Society Association (LSA), coordinating a programme of more than 45 events at the LSA’s annual meetings in the US, Mexico, Canada and elsewhere.
Her other collaborative projects include the Fascism and the International Project (see above); Countering the Rise of Authoritarianism: Law, Philosophy, Politics (with Richard Joyce and Andrew Benjamin); History, Anthropology and the Archive of International Law (HAAIL) (with Madelaine Chiam, Luis Eslava, Genevieve Painter and Charlotte Peevers); Working with Law: Critical Futures (with Tom Andrews, Sara Dehm, Jake Goldenfein, James Parker and Cait Storr); Imperial Locations (with Lauren Benton, Luis Eslava, Martti Koskenniemi, Luigi Nuzzo, Liliana Obregón, Kerry Rittich and others); and the League of Nations and the Periphery project (with Michelle Bergis-Kasthala, Michael Fakhri, Usha Natarajan and Umut Özsu)


Rose teaches undergraduate law in the areas of International Law, Public Law and International Humanitarian Law.



  • Parfitt, R. (2020). Walls Brutality and Nostalgia in the Age of Terror. New Perspectives [Online] 28:51-56. Available at: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/2336825X20909678.
  • Parfitt, R. (2018). Fascism, Imperialism and International Law: An Arch Met a Motorway and the Rest is History…. Leiden Journal of International Law [Online] 31:509-538. Available at: https://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0922156518000304.
    What would happen to our understanding of international law and its relationship with violence if we collapsed the distinction between our supposedly post-colonial ‘present’ and its colonial ‘past’; between the sovereign spaces of the twenty-first century global order, and the integrated, hierarchical space of fascist imperialism? I respond to this question through an investigation into the physical contours of a precise ‘imperial location’: 30°31'00"N, 18°34'00"E. These coordinates refer to a point on the sea-edge of the Sirtica that is occupied, today, by the Ra’s Lanuf oil refinery, one of Libya’s three most important such facilities. In the late-1930s, however, during Libya’s period of fascist colonial rule, this was the spot at which a state-of-the-art motorway, the Via litoranea libica, was crossed by a giant triumphal arch, the Arco dei Fileni. Through a chronotopic reading of the temporal, spatial and interpellative aspects of this point, its architecture and its history, I suggest that fascist lawyers, officials and intellectuals accepted an unfortunate truth about the relationship between international law and violence – a relationship that twenty-first century doctrinal international law is loath to confront. This truth concerns the inherently expansionist logic of the sovereign state, and the inevitably hierarchical ordering of the ‘international community’ which stems from it.
  • Parfitt, R. (2017). The Anti-Neutral Suit: International Legal Futurists, 1914-2017. London Review of International Law [Online] 5:87-123. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/lril/lrw023.
    The WWI artefact examined here is the Anti-Neutral Suit, designed in 1914 by the Futurist artist Giacomo Balla. Juxtaposing the Suit's materiality against that of some present-day anti-neutral outfits, I suggest that international law's most important (individual, collective) subjects are not, in fact, definitively peaceable and egalitarian but rather violently expansionist.
  • Parfitt, R. (2014). The Spectre of Sources. The European Journal of International Law [Online] 25:297-306. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ejil/chu011.
  • Parfitt, R. (2011). Empire des Nègres Blancs: The Hybridity of International Personality and the Abyssinia Crisis of 1935-36. Leiden Journal of International Law [Online] 24:849-872. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0922156511000409.
    The ‘Abyssinia Crisis’ of 1935–36 – in which one League of Nations member (imperial Ethiopia) was annexed by another (Fascist Italy) – presents one of the clearest twentieth-century illustrations of international law's ‘progress narrative’. International lawyers are encouraged to draw a salutary lesson from the crisis: namely that Ethiopia's sovereignty – and, indeed, the peace of the entire world – might have survived the 1930s if only international law had been properly enforced. Yet, the assumption upon which this lesson depends – to the effect that Ethiopia's only discursive contribution to the crisis was passively to regurgitate the relevant clauses of the Covenant – is profoundly ideological. For this assumption effects a double suppression: erasing Ethiopia's strategic construction of a hybrid, partially Abyssinian international law from the discipline's memory; and concealing from scholarly view the possibility that Ethiopia's annexation might have resulted from actions that were in accordance with, rather than in violation of, interwar international legal norms regarding sovereignty and the use of force.


  • Parfitt, R. (2019). The Process of International Legal Reproduction: Inequality, Historiography, Resistance. [Online]. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Available at: https://dx.doi.org/10.1017/9781108655118.
    That all states are free and equal under international law is axiomatic to the discipline. Yet even a brief look at the dynamics of the international order calls that axiom into question. Mobilising fresh archival research and drawing on a tradition of unorthodox Marxist and anti-colonial scholarship, Rose Parfitt develops a new 'modular' legal historiography to make sense of the paradoxical relationship between sovereign equality and inequality. Juxtaposing a series of seemingly unrelated histories against one another, including a radical re-examination of the canonical story of Fascist Italy's invasion of Ethiopia, Parfitt exposes the conditional nature of the process through which international law creates and disciplines new states and their subjects. The result is a powerful critique of international law's role in establishing and perpetuating inequalities of wealth, power and pleasure, accompanied by a call to attend more closely to the strategies of resistance that are generated in that process.

Book section

  • Parfitt, R. and Craven, M. (2018). Statehood, Self-Determination and Recognition. In: Evans, M. D. ed. International Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 177-226. Available at: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/he/9780198791836.001.0001.
    This chapter, which examines various theoretical arguments about recognition, statehood, or sovereignty, discusses the elusiveness of the actual place occupied by the State in legal international thought and practice. In one direction, the existence of a society of independent States appears to be a necessary presupposition for the discipline—something that has to precede the identification of those rules or principles which might be regarded as forming the substance of international law. In another direction, however, statehood is something that appears to be produced through international law following from a need to determine which political communities can rightfully claim to enjoy the prerogatives of sovereignty.
  • Parfitt, R. (2017). Newer is Truer: Time, Space and Subjectivity at the Bandung Conference. In: Eslava, L., Fakhri, M. and Nesiah, V. eds. Bandung, Global History, and International Law: Critical Pasts and Pending Futures. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 49-65. Available at: https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/bandung-global-history-and-international-law/34236E0CAB3D3F96F715C755879D3BF8.
    To critical scholars of international law, the demands of the newly independent states represented at the Bandung Conference can appear somewhat less than radical. If analysed not only in terms of their substance but also in terms of their (narrative) form, however, these demands take on a far more revolutionary aspect. This chapter mobilises Bakhtin’s concept of the chronotope to focus on the relationship between time and space, as constructed by the delegates at Bandung. They made use, the chapter argues, of certain chronotopic devices in order to narrate – and constitute – a particular kind of international legal subjectivity for their states. In doing so, they made a rhetorical-political move against the superpowers and their allies, collectively the source of the two most important threats to the subjectivity of African and Asian states: colonialism and the Cold War. With this move, the delegates sought to challenge the identity of these powerful states as international law’s archetypal subjects, and in their stead to position their own states – international law’s newest subjects – as also, and for that reason, its truest.
  • Parfitt, R. (2016). Theorizing Recognition and International Personality. In: Orford, A., Hoffmann, F. and Clark, M. eds. The Oxford Handbook of the Theory of International Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 583-600. Available at: https://global.oup.com/academic/product/the-oxford-handbook-of-the-theory-of-international-law-9780198701958?cc=gb&lang=en&#.
  • Parfitt, R. (2011). Crossed wires: Issues of Sovereignty, Community and Civilisation during Ethiopia’s Accession to the League of Nations. In: Domeier, N., Augusti, E. and Prutsch, M. eds. Intra-Trans-Supra? Legal Relations and Power Structures in History. Saarbrücken, Germany: Akademikerverlag, pp. 76-89.
  • Parfitt, R. (2009). Dialectical Genealogies and Dialogical Progenies in the "Earned Sovereignty" Seedbed: Methodology, Ideology and the International Legal Self. In: Beck Varela, L., Gutiérrez, P. and Spinosa, A. eds. Crossing Legal Cultures. Munich: Martin Meidenbauer, pp. 519-534.

Edited journal

  • Chiam, M., Eslava, L., Painter, G.R., Parfitt, R. and Peevers, C. eds. (2017). History, Anthropology and the Archive of International Law. London Review of International Law 5.

Internet publication

  • Parfitt, R. (2018). Is the United Nations Still Relevant? [article]. Available at: http://stateofnatureblog.com/one-question-united-nations-part-one/.
  • Parfitt, R. (2017). Is Fascism Making a Comeback [Blog Post]. Available at: http://stateofnatureblog.com/one-question-fascism-part-one/.
  • Chiam, M., Eslava, L., Painter, G., Parfitt, R. and Peevers, C. (2014). Interruption: Five Artefacts of International Law [Blog Post]. Available at: http://criticallegalthinking.com/2014/12/16/interruption-five-artefacts-international-law/.
  • Parfitt, R., Eslava, L., Painter, G., Peevers, C. and Chiam, M. (2014). The First World War, Interrupted: Artefacts As International Law’s Archive [Blog post]. Available at: http://criticallegalthinking.com/2014/12/15/first-world-war-interrupted-artefacts-international-laws-archive/.
  • Parfitt, R. (2013). The Unequal Equality of Sovereigns: A Brief History of ’Peripheral Personality’ [Working paper]. Available at: https://jeanmonnetprogram.org/paper/the-unequal-equality-of-sovereigns-a-brief-history-of-peripheral-personality/.


  • Parfitt, R. (2017). The League of Nations. [Online]. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/OBO/9780199796953-0151.
    This is a blind peer-reviewed annotated bibliography on international law and the League of Nations


  • Parfitt, R. (2012). Review Essay: Sovereign Equality and Moral Disagreement, by Brad R. Roth. European Journal of International Law [Online] 23:1175-1199. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1093/ejil/chs067.
  • Eslava, L., Natarajan, U. and Parfitt, R. (2012). (Post)Revolutionary Interlinkages: Labour, Environment and Accumulation. Transnational Legal Theory [Online] 4:108-125. Available at: https://doi.org/10.5235/20414005.4.1.108.
    In this collective review, we explore Timothy Mitchells Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil with a view to reflecting critically on a contemporary historical juncture, which we call a
    (post)revolutionary moment. The review builds on discussions at a seminar we co-organised in Doha, Qatar under the auspices of Harvard Law Schools Institute for Global Law and Policy as part of its annual workshop in January 2013.1 Carbon Democracy is part of a significant body of scholarship stretching over several decades where Mitchell explores the relationship between economic expertise
    and the material conditions of socio-economic development. Mitchells analyses over the years have been wide-ranging in their interests and implications, but his particular focus has been the Arab region. In Carbon Democracy, Mitchell maintains this geographical focus, investigating the internal mechanics and political repercussions of that quintessential Middle Eastern commodity, oil. Yet this is
    not an ordinary resuscitation of the rentier states thesis: as Mitchell explains: [r]ather than a study of democracy and oil, [this] became a book about democracy as oilas a form of politics whose mechanisms on multiple levels involve the processes of producing and using carbon energy (5).2
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