Network for Interdisciplinary Studies of Law | Law

Network for Interdisciplinary Studies of Law

Network Activities


Catalyzing the Rule of Law in Afghanistan: challenges and opportunities, international symposium organized by NISL and co-sponsored by the Asia Pacific Civil-Military Centre of Excellence, September 2009. Keynote address (and Wallace Wurth lecture): Dr David Kilcullen: ‘Deiokes and the Taliban: Local Governance,  Bottom-up State Formation, and the Rule of Law in Counterinsurgency’.

Second Forensic Science symposium(1 day UNSW/UTS Symposium involving many of the leading forensic science managers from Australia and New Zealand held at UNSW. Discussion of controversial issues in the modern forensic sciences) February 2010.

Second Forensic Science symposium, co-organized by Professors Jill Hunter and Paul Roberts, Nottingham, April 2010.

Citizenship in a Globalised World – Perspectives from the Immigrant Democracies.
NISL was co-sponsor, with the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, the Department of Immigration, and Harvard University, of this major conference, which was organised by Dr Geoffrey Brahm Levey of FASS (and member of the NISL Board of Management). The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Evans opened the conference, which included leading scholars from the United States and Australia. July 2010.

Expert Evidence Conference in Sydney, 3-4 December 2011 
The Australian Academy of Forensic Sciences and the National Centre for Forensic Studies, in conjunction with the Network of Interdisciplinary Studies of Law at the University of New South Wales, is holding a two day conference 'Impressions and Expressions: Expert Evidence in Courts and Reports' on 3-4 December 2011.


  • August 5, 2009
    "Philosophical Foundations of Law and Neuroscience"
    Professor Dennis Patterson
    Discussants: Justice David Hodgson (Judge of Appeal of the Supreme Court of New South Wales), Dr Peter Slezak (School of History and Philosophy, UNSW).
  • March 23, 2010
    "European Legal Cultures in a Context of Globalisation"
    SPEAKER: Professor Mark van Hoeke
    Discussants: Associate Professor Adam Czarnota, Professor Frank J. Garcia
  • April 14, 2010 (with Department of Government and International Relations, Sydney University)
    "The Two ‘Rules of Law’ between Transition to and Quality of Democracy"
    Professor Leonardo Morlino
    Discussants: Professors Graeme Gill (Politics, University of Sydney)and Martin Krygier
  • July 16, 2010
    "National Identity and Ideal Constitutional Systems"
    Dr Vito Breda (University of Cardiff)
    Discussant: Adam Czarnota
  • August 11, 2010
    "Du Bois in Global Context: Nazism, the United Nations and US Racial Politics", Professor Eve Darian-Smith (UC Santa Barbara)
    Discussant: Dr Danielle Celermajer, director of Master of Human Rights and Democratisation (Asia Pacific Regional Program), Sydney University
  • September 1, 2010
    Mathews Building Room 1016
    'Observer Effects in Forensic Science' William C. Thompson, Professor and former Chair of the Department of Criminology, Law & Society at the University of California, Irvine.

  • September 24, 2010
    Debate on 'Liberalism And Value Pluralism'
    Beata Polanowska-Sygulska,  Associate Professor  Department of Legal Theory, Jagiellonian University, Cracow, Poland, and
    George Crowder,  Professor in the Department of Politics and Public Policy, Flinders University.

  • 13 October, 2010
    Debate on the Rule Of Law
    Martin Krygier, 'Four Puzzles About The Rule of Law: Why, What, Where? And Who Cares?'
    Gary Wickham, 'Krygier’s Fif th Puzzle or Why the Rule of Law By Any Other Name Would Smell as Sweet (or as Sour)'
    Martin Krygier, Gordon Samuels Professor of Law and Social Theory, UNSW and
    Gary Wickham, Professor of Sociology at Murdoch University in Western Australia
  • 2 November, 2010
    Seminar On 'Truth and Reconciliation after Communism in Germany. The Bundestag "Truth Commission'
    Speaker: Andrew Beattie
    Discussants: Adam Czarnota, Tom Morton


Professor Denis Patterson, Board of Governors Professor of Law and Philosophy at Rutgers University in Camden, NJ, USA; Professor of Legal Philosophy at the European University Institute, Florence.  July/August 2009.
Professor Paul Roberts, Law, University of Nottingham. April 2010.
Professor Eve Darian-Smith,  Global & International Studies, University of Santa Barbara.
Professor Beata Polanowska-Sygulska, Legal Theory, Jagiellonian University, Cracow, Poland. August-September 2010.

Network Directors

Program Directors


International Advisory Board

  • John Darley, Warren Professor of Psychology, Princeton University
  • Neil Gunningham (The site is no longer available), Professor, School of Resources, Environment and Society/RegNet Program, Australian National University
  • Stephen Holmes, Walter E. Meyer Professor of Law, New York University, Faculty Advisor Centre on Law and Security
  • Luc Huyse (The site is no longer available), Emeritus Professor of Sociology and Sociology of Law, Catholic University of Leuven
  • Nicola Lacey, Professor of Criminal Law and Legal Theory, London School of Economics
  • David Lieberman, Jefferson E. Peyser Professor of Law, Jurisprudence and Social Policy, University of California, Berkeley
  • Michael Lynch (The site is no longer available), Editor of Social Studies of Science, Professor of Science and Technology Studies, Cornell University
  • David Nelken (The link is no longer available), Distinguished Professor of Legal Institutions and Social Change, University of Macerata
  • Gianluigi Palombella, Professor of Legal Philosophy and Sociology of Law, University of Parma
  • Wojciech Sadurski (The site is no longer available), Professor of Philosophy of Law and Legal Theory, European University Institute, Florence; Professor of Legal Theory, University of Sydney, Faculty of Law
  • Andras Sajo, Judge of the European Court of Human Rights; University Professor, Central European University, Budapest
  • Kim L Scheppele, Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Public Affairs in the Woodrow Wilson School and the University Center for Human Values; Director, Program on Law and Public Affairs, Princeton University
  • Grazyna Skapska, Professor of Social Theory and Sociology of Law, Institute of Sociology, and Director, Centre for Interdisciplinary Socio-Legal Studies, Jagiellonian University, Cracow.
  • Neil Walker, Regius Professor of Public Law and the Law of Nature and of Nations, University of Edinburgh
  • Marek Zirk-Sadowski, Professor of Jurisprudence, University of Lódz, Judge of the Supreme Administrative Court, Poland.

The Network for Interdisciplinary Studies of Law is based at UNSW Law and seeks to explore law and law-related life, by drawing on insights and researchers from a variety of scholarly disciplines in the humanities and social sciences.

What we recognise as ‘law’ is a congeries of institutions, practices, rules and arrangements that overlap and connect with a variety of domains of life. Lawyers know a lot about these institutions and practices, but there is much that they do not know. For example, they know little about the sociology of the institutions in which they practise, and less about that of the lives they affect. And what is true of the sociology of law is true of most branches of ‘law and …’: economics, political science, philosophy, psychology, etc. Yet there is important work occurring in all these branches of scholarship.

The institutions, practices, and consequences of law itself are of significance from many points of view other than those of insider-experts. They are of interest to, and can be illuminated by, a variety of disciplines. And when law hits life, experts on various aspects of life are as important as experts on law, but they often do not mix enough or well enough. The Network for Interdisciplinary Studies of Law seeks to encourage such meetings, both literally, by bringing people together, and metaphorically by bringing ideas of varying provenance to bear on law, its character, effects, and interactions.

The Network does not pursue ‘interdisciplinarity’ as an end in itself. That way tends quickly to be undisciplined in all senses of the word. Rather, we are concerned to focus on problems that benefit from insights drawn from several disciplines. It is the match with those problems, not the particular provenance of the researcher that matters to us. However, there are many such problems which can be addressed more broadly and deeply through the cooperation of lawyers with scholars from disciplines other than doctrinal law. We focus on such problems.

The Network is based in the Law School, but maintains strong connections with other Schools and Faculties within the University, in other universities in Australia and internationally, and with other institutions whose activities intersect with the programs being carried out by Network members. It has begun a number of programs of an interdisciplinary character, each headed by a scholar with expertise and interest in developing research activity in his/her particular field. At the moment the programs under way are:

  • Expertise, Evidence and Law (program director: Gary Edmond). Expert knowledge has become increasingly controversial in public life. This is perhaps most conspicuous in policy, regulatory and legal settings. Confronted with protracted and seemingly intractable expert disagreement, the proliferation of experts and debates over the relevance and reliability of particular types of expertise, modern public institutions have been actively developing techniques for managing the range of expert perspectives and problems associated with disagreement, uncertainty and the allocation of risk. This program is focused on these important and controversial issues.
  • Juries: Citizen Participation in Criminal Trials (program director: Jill Hunter) Juries are as old as the common law. There is, as well, a long European tradition embracing citizen engagement in criminal trial adjudication. Whilst colonial and post-colonial export of the criminal jury system beyond the old world is well known, less appreciated is the continuing far more recent establishment of jury systems in numerous countries - Northern Ireland, Japan, South Korea, Argentina, Spain and former Soviet countries, to name a few. Jury systems take many forms but there are important commonalities. These include the perception that in a country’s criminal processes juries create transparency, permit the injection of community values and reduce control by the establishment. NISL’s program explores juries from a variety of interdisciplinary perspectives that illuminate the interplay of the jury trial process, legal doctrine and criminal legal practice, and wider social currents, practices and structures.
  • European Law (program director: Adam Czarnota). This program continues the study of European law of the European Law Centre, which has now become part of NISL. That Centre was distinctive for the theoretical and interdisciplinary character of its research, and for its special understanding of ‘the new Europe’, and work of this character will continue.
  • Justice in Peace-building and Development (program director: Whit Mason) Rule-of-law interventions in post-dictatorial and post-conflict states conventionally focus exclusively on the technocratic dimension of building institutions, ignoring other elements that play essential roles in the relationship between society and its means for enforcing its laws and adjudicating disputes. Similarly, academic studies of how approaches to justice evolve in different cultural, political and historical contexts typically examine recent or ongoing interventions and programs, while ignoring the experiences of societies whose systems of justice largely evolved before World War II. NISL’s program on Justice in Peace-building and Development takes a broader approach, supporting research that draws on the full breadth of historical experience with how the law has – or has not - come to rule in various societies.
  • The Sociology of the Rule of Law (program director: Martin Krygier). This program investigates the interplay of institutional and extra-institutional conditions necessary for the rule of law. Of course, the rule of law involves legal institutions but it also depends on congenial features of the societies in which they function, the ways they function there, and what else happens there which interacts with and affects the sway of law. For the rule of law to exist, still more to flourish and be secure, many things beside the law matter, and since societies differ in many ways, so will those things. This program studies those things.