International law, international institutions, global governance, legal theory and the role of technology in global affairs, especially the use of digital technology in development, humanitarian aid, and disaster relief.
Field of Research (FoR)
Fleur Johns is Professor in the Faculty of Law, working in the areas of public international law, legal theory, law and development, law and society (or socio-legal studies), and law and technology. Fleur studies emergent patterns of governance on the global plane, and their social, political and economic implications, employing an interdisciplinary approach that draws on the social sciences and humanities and combines the study of public and...view more
Fleur Johns is Professor in the Faculty of Law, working in the areas of public international law, legal theory, law and development, law and society (or socio-legal studies), and law and technology. Fleur studies emergent patterns of governance on the global plane, and their social, political and economic implications, employing an interdisciplinary approach that draws on the social sciences and humanities and combines the study of public and private law. In 2020-2021, Fleur is a Visiting Professor at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden (mostly involving virtual/online visitation).
Fleur's recent work has focused on the role of automation and digital technology in global legal relations, especially in development, humanitarian aid and disaster relief. She is currently leading an Australian Research Council-funded project entitled 'Data Science in Humanitarianism: Confronting Novel Law and Policy Challenges': see here for details. Fleur is the author of Non-Legality in International Law: Unruly Law (Cambridge, 2013) and The Mekong: A Socio-legal Approach to River Basin Development (co-authored with Ben Boer, Philip Hirsch, Ben Saul & Natalia Scurrah, Routledge 2016). Fleur is also editor of two further books: Events: The Force of International Law (Routledge-Cavendish, 2011; co-edited with Richard Joyce and Sundhya Pahuja); and International Legal Personality (Ashgate, 2010); as well as having authored articles in journals in Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom and Europe.
Before joining UNSW, Fleur was Co-Director of the Sydney Centre for International Law at the University of Sydney. She has also held visiting appointments in Canada (the University of Toronto), the UK (the LSE), Europe (the EUI), and the US (the Institute for Advanced Study). Prior to entering academia, Fleur practised corporate law in New York, specialising in international project finance in Latin America, and she remains admitted to practice at the New York Bar. She has served on a range of not-for-profit boards and management committees and on several editorial boards; she currently serves on the Editorial Boards of the following journals – American Journal of International Law, Regulation & Technology, and Global Change, Peace & Security – as well as being an Advisory Editor for the London Review of International Law and the Australian Feminist Law Journal and a member of the Editorial Committee for the Routledge Book Series: Politics of Transnational Law.
Fleur has three school-aged children and worked part-time (approximately half-time) between 2005 and 2013.
- First-named Chief Investigator, Australian Research Council Discovery Project Grant 2018-2020 (DP18010090), 'Data Science in Humanitarianism: Confronting Novel Law and Policy Challenges' (with CI A/Professor Wayne Wobcke, UNSW Computer Science, and PI Professor David Nelken, Dickson Poon School of Law, King's College London) (AUD$511,496).
- Chief Investigator, Australian Cyber Security Studies Centre Research Grant 2015 ‘Data Analytics, Decision Support and Changing Conditions of Global Governance: Human Dimensions of Cyber Security Regulation’ (AUD$30,000)
- First-named Chief Investigator, Australian Research Council Discovery Grant 2011-2013 (DP110102978) ‘Mekong Laws: Scales, Sites and Impacts of 'hard' and 'soft' Law in Mekong River Basin Governance’ (with Prof. Philip Hirsch, Prof. Ben Boer and Prof. Ben Saul) (AUD$300,000)
- Participating Investigator, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Insight Grant 2012-2015, ‘Planning by Contract: An Empirical Study of the Legal and Governance Dimensions of Public-Private Projects’ (Prof. Mariana Valverde and Dr. Susannah Bunce, University of Toronto are Chief Investigators) (CAD$94,275)
- Grant-holder, Council for Australian-Arab Relations Grant 2012-2013, for ‘International Law & the Periphery’, a Conference Co-convened with the American University in Cairo, Egypt, Feb. 2012 (AUD $12,000)
BA, LLB (Hons), Melbourne
LLM, SJD, Harvard
Fulbright Scholar Award (declined) 2019-2020
Robert Gordon Menzies Scholarship, Harvard University 1995-1996
Robert Laylin Prize, Harvard University 1996
Elected LLM class speaker, Harvard University Commencement 1996
Robert Craig Exhibition for Current International Legal Problems, University of Melbourne, 1994
Schutt Trust Fellowship, Trinity College, University of Melbourne, 1991
Price Waterhouse Prize for Contracts, University of Melbourne, 1990
My Research Supervision
Areas of supervision
Fleur is currently supervising PhD students working on a range of topics in international law and legal theory, predominantly with a critical legal theory dimension.
- Member, School of Social Sciences, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton (https://www.ias.edu/) 2019-2020
- Core Ideas Group, Meridian 180 (www.meridian-180.org) 2012-present
- Elected Member of the Coordinating Committee of the European Society of International Law International Legal Theory Interest Group 2007-2009; 2009-2012
- Management Committee Member, Refugee Advice and Casework Service, Ltd., 2003-2005; 2009-2010
- Management Committee Member, International Law Association (Australian branch), 2005
- Rapporteur, Inter-agency Consultation on Protected Areas, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs & Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies (1999)
- Non-Executive Director, Environment Defenders Office (Victoria), 1993-1995
- Advisory Board Member, Esprit Cares Trust Fund, Esprit (Australia) Pty Ltd, 1992-1994
Editorial Roles (Selected)
- Editorial Board, American Journal of International Law, since 2018
- Editorial Board, Routledge Book Series: Politics of Transnational Law, since 2015
- Editorial Advisory Board, London Review of International Law, since 2013
- Editorial Board, Leiden Journal of International Law, 2005-2013 (Articles Editor 2005-2010 with Wouter Werner)
- Editorial Board, Australian Journal of Human Rights, 2005-2015
- Editorial Advisory Board, Australian Feminist Law Journal, since 2008
- Editorial Board, Global Change, Peace & Security, since 2008
- Editorial Board, Australian International Law Journal, 2008-2013
- Editorial Board, Sydney Law Review, 2004 (Book Review Editor) & 2007
- Primary Editor, Harvard Human Rights Journal, 1996
Fleur has taught LLB, JD and Masters courses in the following areas:
- Public International Law
- Law in Global Context
- Private International Law
- International Human Rights Law
- International Law & the Use of Armed Force
- International Project Finance
- Law, Lawyers & Justice (professional ethics)
- Legal Geographies
- The State and Global Governance
- Theories of International Law
Modern states have pursued what James C. Scott characterised as projects of legibility and simplification. Maps, censuses, uniform measures, universal naming conventions, population studies, national economic plans: these are the measures by which modern states have taken stock of their subjects, interests and territories. Market-driven standardization has, to some degree, carried on that tradition, albeit with an orientation away from the state. In either setting, critiques of these practices abound. As criticism has continued, however, the synoptic techniques with which states, international institutions and major market players tend to work have changed. They have got thicker and more dispersed, some to an almost inestimable degree. States and other governance institutions now draw, sometimes in real time, upon immense, multi-source repositories of data, and aspire to do so more. Modes of analysis too have changed. No longer is legibility a precondition for action. Governance practice has come to be informed by methodologies of product and business development that prefer prototypes over plans. States and international institutions continue to plan, but alongside this, they pursue iterative learning gleaned from the release of minimally viable policy mock-ups and rapid evaluation of their reception. Critiques of modernist calculation and design have limited purchase on these practices. Scholars and others concerned about maximizing their potential, and minimizing the violence and wastage that they bring about, must devise new ways of loading questions into prevailing truisms and giving pause to the churn of contemporary governance practice.
Speaker: Fleur Johns is Professor and Associate Dean of Research in the Faculty of Law at UNSW Australia.
Respondent: Stewart Motha is Reader in Law and Acting Dean, Birkbeck School of Law.