Transnational Legal Feminism – Beyond Western Hegemonies in Crossborder Feminist Research and Practice in International Law

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy



This thesis examines the current state of feminist research and practice in international law. Its critique focuses on the hegemony of Western liberal epistemology in mainstream feminism and international law and the resulting failure to engage with alterity and difference across cultural divides. As such, the thesis offers a detailed engagement with the question of how to undertake cross-border feminist research and practice in international law that resists and counters the Western liberal hegemony of these fields and is informed by epistemic alterity.

To explore this question, the thesis introduces 'transnational legal feminism as a methodology for feminist practice in international law, in Chapter 1. By connecting the literature from transnational and post-colonial feminism with critical international legal scholarship (particularly from TWAIL and transnational law), the chapter sets out the idea of contextualisation of practice as a method for international legal feminist praxis to engage with its locations of operation in a more symbiotic manner. This includes not only a mutual knowledge exchange with actors and epistemic communities of the contexts in question, but also an awareness of the neoliberal and colonial power relations at the international legal level.
Chapter 2, the Focus Chapter, offers an overview of Islamic feminism as an example of a feminist theory and practice derived from non-liberal epistemology. Although Islamic feminism has been growing within Muslim communities, it is largely ignored in mainstream feminist and human rights practice in international law. Finally, Chapter 3 sets out the case study, which examines the implementation of a specific international legal instrument, the United Nations Women, Peace and Security agenda, in the context of Afghanistan. The case study's purpose is to illustrate the consequences of insufficiently engaging with non-liberal forms of knowledge (in this case Islamic feminism) that result from the epistemic confinement of mainstream feminism and international law.

As such, the main argument of the thesis is that it is imperative for feminist praxis in international law to engage with and be informed by alternative sites of knowledge production that are central to various epistemic communities beyond the Western liberal paradigm. To do so, the thesis argues that transnational legal feminist praxis must be open to a self-reflective turn to critique that enables a reconsideration of its epistemic foundations in light of hitherto marginalised epistemic communities. Ultimately, the contribution of this thesis is to outline concrete ways in which Western liberal hegemony in feminism and international law can be disrupted through a deeper understanding and engagement with epistemic alterity.
Date of Award1 Sept 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorPeer Zumbansen (Supervisor) & Rebekka Friedman (Supervisor)

Cite this