Dr Sara Kendall

Reader in International Law,
LLM Pathway Director for Human Rights Law,
Co-Director Centre for Critical International Law
+44 (0)1227 816099
Dr Sara Kendall


Sara Kendall studies the discursive forms and material practices of international law and global governance. At Kent Law School she co-directs the Centre for Critical International Law and teaches at both the undergraduate and postgraduate level. Beyond KLS, she is a research affiliate with University of California’s Promise Institute of Human Rights (US) and with the Centre for the Politics of Transnational Law at Vrije University Amsterdam (NL). She also serves on the editorial boards of the London Review of International Law, the Leiden Journal of International Law, and Humanity: an International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development.

Sara’s research addresses legal responses to – and complicity with – forms of violence, from international crimes to the conditions of possibility of armed conflict. She is particularly interested in the ways in which legal forms seek to contain or respond to mass atrocity through international criminal law and international humanitarian law. During the academic year of 2020-2021, Sara is on research leave supported by the Leverhulme Trust to work on her manuscript tentatively entitled ‘Humanitarian Complicity in the Global Legal Order.’ She is also collaborating on a three year research project funded by the National Sciences Foundation (NSF, US) on the use of geospatial technologies in human rights and international criminal law investigations.

Sara 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 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 has published on a range of topics that touch upon relations between violence and legal form. 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 many edited collections.

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 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. An additional 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. From 2017 – 2019 she convened the AHRC-funded ‘Legal Materiality’ research network with her colleague Dr. Hyo Yoon Kang, resulting in an open-access special issue of the journal Law Text Culture that advances a novel theorisation of legal matters and materials.


Sara's Undergraduate teaching interests span International Humanitarian Law, International Human Rights Law in Context and International Law. At Postgraduate level her teaching includes the fields of Legal Aspects of Contemporary International Problems and International Criminal Law.


Sara is interested in supervising PhDs in international law, legal theory and philosophy, international criminal law, international humanitarian law, global governance, critical and political theory, socio-legal approaches, law and the humanities, and on colonial legacies in law.


Research and Professional Affiliations

  • Research Fellowship, Leverhulme Trust (UK), ‘Humanitarian Complicity in the Global Legal Order’, 2020 – 2021
  • Collaborator, National Sciences Foundation (US), ‘Evidentiary Dilemmas and Emergent Publics: How Contestations Over New Geospatial Technologies are Shaping International Justice’, 2020 – 2023
  • Partner, University of California Los Angeles Transdisciplinary Research Acceleration Grant (US), ‘Visualising Justice’, 2020 – 2021
  • Co-Investigator, Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK), ‘Legal Materiality Network’, 2017 – 2019
  • Collaborator, SSHRC (Canada) Insight Development Grant, 'Feeling Life: Biopolitics, Literature, and Humanitarian Sentimentality', 2016 – 2018
  • Research Affiliate, University of California Los Angeles, Promise Institute for Human Rights
  • Associated Researcher, Vrije University, Amsterdam, Centre for the Politics of Transnational Law
  • Editor, London Review of International Law (Oxford University Press)
  • General Editor, Leiden Journal of International Law (Cambridge University Press)
  • Member, Editorial 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, 2016 – 2019
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