Jens Meierhenrich

Jens Meierhenrich

  • Visiting Professor of Law

Jens Meierhenrich is the Stephen and Barbara Friedman Visiting Professor of Law at Columbia Law School for the fall semester 2023. He is Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science and previously taught for a decade at Harvard University, where he was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Government and at the Committee on Degrees in Social Studies. He has served as a visiting professor of law at the University of Tokyo, at Harvard Law School, and, most recently, at the University of Hong Kong, where he was the Cheng Yu Tung Visiting Professor of Law.

An internationally recognized expert in international, comparative, and foreign law, Professor Meierhenrich’s wide-ranging scholarship explores the nature and adjudication of international crimes—from apartheid to genocide. A first-generation student, he received his M.Phil. and D.Phil. degrees in international relations from the University of Oxford, as a Rhodes Scholar at St. Antony’s College. Prior to that he studied law and political science in Germany, at the Universität Passau, and in South Africa, at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

Professor Meierhenrich’s interdisciplinary research has appeared in many edited volumes as well as in the American Journal of International Law, the Annual Review of Law and Social Science, Constitutional Political Economy, Ethics & International Affairs, Human Rights Quarterly, the Journal of International Criminal Justice, and Law & Social Inquiry, among other peer-reviewed journals. He is also the author of The Legacies of Law: Long-Run Consequences of Legal Development in South Africa, 1652-2000 (Cambridge University Press, 2008), which won the American Political Science Association’s 2009 Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award for the best book published in the United States during the previous year in politics, government, or international affairs, and of The Remnants of the Rechtsstaat: An Ethnography of Nazi Law (Oxford University Press, 2018), an inquiry into the legal origins of dictatorship. His most recent book, The Violence of Law: The Formation and Deformation of Gacaca Courts in Rwanda (Cambridge University Press, 2023), is a closely observed study of transitional injustice. All three of Professor Meierhenrich’s solo-authored books — like his work on international criminal law — inquire into what theorists from Walter Benjamin to Judith Shklar, and from Robert Cover to Achille Mbembe, have thought of as law’s violence.

As part of this intellectual trajectory, Professor Meierhenrich also initiated and oversaw the re-publication of Ernst Fraenkel’s 1941 classic The Dual State: A Contribution to the Theory of Dictatorship (Oxford University Press, 2017), to which he contributed an extended introduction and several translations. His edited collections include The Oxford Handbook of Transitional Justice (Oxford University Press, in press), The Law and Practice of International Commissions of Inquiry (Oxford University Press, in press), The Cambridge Companion to the Rule of Law (Cambridge University Press, 2021), The Oxford Handbook of Carl Schmitt (Oxford University Press, 2016), Political Trials in Theory and History (Cambridge University Press, 2016), and Genocide: A Reader (Oxford University Press, 2014). He also edited a special double issue of Law & Contemporary Problems on “The Practices of the International Criminal Court,” an expanded and revised edition of which will appear in book form.

Professor Meierhenrich is currently completing Lawfare: A Genealogy (Cambridge University Press), a genocide trilogy, comprising The Rationality of Genocide, The Structure of Genocide, and The Culture of Genocide (Princeton University Press), and Genocide: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press). Contributor workshops for three edited volumes — Dual States: A Global History, Desk Perpetrators: Schreibtischtäter in International Law, and The Cultural Study of International Law: Thick Descriptions of the International Criminal Court — have been held, respectively, at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the International Nuremberg Principles Academy, and the LSE.

In pursuit of his award-winning research on international, comparative, and foreign law, which relies heavily on participant observation, Professor Meierhenrich served as a Visiting Professional in Trial Chamber II at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and in the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, where he worked with Luis Moreno Ocampo, its first Prosecutor. He has also conducted field research in numerous countries with violent histories — Argentina, Cambodia, Germany, Iraq, Japan, Rwanda, South Africa, and the United States among them — and in several other international courts and tribunals.

Since 2017, Professor Meierhenrich has been editor of Cambridge Studies in Law and Society, the venerable book series at Cambridge University Press. He previously served as a co-editor of the Journal of Genocide Research and on the editorial board of the Law & Society Review. He has held fellowships at, inter alia, the American Bar Foundation, the Project on Justice in Times of Transition at Harvard Law School, the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, the Paul F. Lazarsfeld Center for the Social Sciences at Columbia University, the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation in Johannesburg, and the International Center for Comparative Law and Politics at the University of Tokyo. He also served as a fellow traveler at the Program in Law and Public Affairs at Princeton University.

Professor Meierhenrich recently spent a year at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton — where he was the Louise and John Steffens Founders’ Circle Member in the School of Social Science — to lay the foundation for what he calls a “critical critical theory” of international law. Conceived around the turn of the millennium, this ongoing project is slated to culminate in two monographs, one theoretical, the other empirical: A Social Theory of International Law is the title of the first, The Everyday Life of International Law the title of the second.