Portrait of Dr Sara Kendall

Dr Sara Kendall

Senior Lecturer in International Law
Co-Director of Research, Kent Law School
Co-Director, Centre for Critical International Law
LLM Pathway Director, International Law with International Relations


Sara Kendall studies the discursive forms and material practices of international law and global governance. She earned her interdisciplinary doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley, where she specialised in international law and human rights, jurisprudence and social thought, and political theory. Her doctoral work considered issues of jurisdiction at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, which was based upon a year of trial observation through Berkeley’s War Crimes Studies Center court monitoring project in Freetown. Prior to her appointment at Kent, she worked as a researcher in the Department of Public International Law at Leiden University, where she studied the effects of International Criminal Court interventions in Kenya and Uganda. She also taught postgraduate courses in international relations at the University of Amsterdam’s department of Political Science. In a past life she worked for an attorney specialising in police misconduct and prison litigation in Oakland, California.

Research interests

Sara’s research addresses legal responses to – and complicity with – forms of violence, from international crimes to the conditions of possibility of armed conflict. One strand of this research has focused on the ways in which legal forms seek to contain or respond to mass atrocity through international criminal law and international humanitarian law. Her current research project, ‘Legal Humanitarianism: the Restorative Turn in International Criminal Justice’, focuses on the emergence of a juridical category of victimhood in International Criminal Court practices. A second strand, ‘Humanitarian Complicity’, focuses on the role of humanitarian claims in justifying (state) violence, from the colonial period to the present.
Sara has published on a range of topics that touch upon relations between violence and legal form. Her more recent work has taken up contemporary articulations of ‘juridified’ violence, such as the US practice of targeted killing, the ‘unwilling or unable’ doctrine and changing conceptions of territory, and a forthcoming piece on lethal autonomous weapons systems. Within the field of international criminal law, she has published on the implications of the victim as a legal category, what the field might learn from (critiques of) humanitarianism, the political economy of international criminal tribunals, tribunal legacies, and ‘hybridity’ and legal pluralism. Her co-edited volume, Contested Justice: The Politics and Practice of International Criminal Court Interventions (Cambridge University Press, December 2015) is available for download here. A third area of research and publications consider the mediated forms through which law is produced and reproduced, such as the rise of expert knowledge in post-Cold War constitution-drafting practices, and representations of transitional justice and impunity in films such as The Act of Killing and Lumumba: La Mort du Prophète. Her work has appeared in journals such as Law and Contemporary Problems; American Journal of International Law; Leiden Journal of International Law; Netherlands Yearbook of International Law; African Journal of Legal Studies; Journal of Law, Culture and the Humanities; and Studies in Law, Politics and Society, as well as in various edited collections. Her current book-length project explores the effects of International Criminal Court interventions based upon observations of the court’s work in Uganda, Kenya, and the Netherlands.


Sara's undergraduate teaching responsibilities span across International Humanitarian Law, International Human Rights Law in Context and International Law. At Postgraduate her teaching spans Legal Aspects of Contemporary International Problems and International Criminal Law.


Sara is interested in supervising dissertations in international law, legal theory and philosophy, international criminal law, international humanitarian law, global governance, critical and political theory, and colonial legacies in law.


Research and Professional Affiliations

  • Associated Researcher, Vrije University, Amsterdam
  • General Editor, Leiden Journal of International Law (Cambridge University Press) 
  • Member, Editoral Board, Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism and Development (University of Pennsylvania Press) 
  • Member, Organising Committee, Association for the Study of Law, Culture and the Humanities 
  • Collaborator, SSHRC (Canada) Insight Development Grant, 'Feeling Life: Biopolitics, Literature, and Humanitarian Sentimentality' 
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