Karen Alter

Professor of Political Science and Law (Courtesy)


Karen Alter's current research investigates how the proliferation of international legal mechanisms is changing international relations.  Her book The New Terrain of International Law: Courts, Politics, Rights (Princeton University Press, 2013) provides a framework for comparing and understanding the influence of the twenty-five existing international courts, and for thinking about how different domains of domestic and international politics are transformed through the creation of international courts. Alter continues her research in international courts as co-director of the institutionalization research cluster at the iCourts Center of Excellence, Copenhagen University Faculty of Law, and through ongoing collaborative research on international courts in Latin America and Africa.

Alter is author of:The European Court’s Political Power (Oxford University Press, 2009), and Establishing the Supremacy of European Law: The Making of an International Rule of Law in Europe (Oxford University Press, 2001) and more than forty articles and book chapters on politics of international law, international courts, and international regime complexity.  She is co-editor of the Oxford Handbook on International Adjudication (Oxford University Press, 2014) and has published in the American Journal of International Law, International Organization,Comparative Political Studies, Perspectives on Politics,European Journal of International Relations, European Law Journal, Law and Contemporary Problems, American Journal of Comparative Law, Annual Review of Law and Social Science, Journal of International Law and Politics, and European Union Politics

Fluent in Italian, French and German, Alter’s research has been supported by the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the American Academy of Berlin, the Howard Foundation, the German Marshall Fund, the DAAD, and the Bourse Chateaubriand Scientifique. Alter is member of the New York Council on Foreign Relations, serves on the editorial board of International Organization, and (previously) Law and Social Inquiry and European Union Politics. She has been a visiting scholar at the Northwestern Law School, the American Academy in Berlin, the Institute d’Etudes Politiques, the Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Auswartiges Politik, Harvard University’s Center for European Studies, Harvard Law School, Seikei University, the Sonderforschungsbereich of Universitat Bremen, and the American Bar Foundation.

Alter teaches courses on International Law and International Relations, International Organizations, International Courts and Tribunals, Ethics in International Affairs, the International Politics of Human Rights at both the graduate and undergraduate level, and at the faculty of law at Northwestern University. She also participates in research training through the iCourts Center of Excellence, at the University of Copenhagen Faculty of Law.

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Selected Publications

  • The European Court’s Political Power: Selected Essays (Oxford University Press, 2009).
  • The European Court’s Political Power Across Time and Space.
  • Nature or Nurture: Lawmaking in the European Court of Justice and the Andean Tribunal of Justice in 64 international organization 563-592 (2010) (with Laurence Helfer ).
  • The Andean Tribunal of Justice and Its Interlocutors: Understanding Preliminary Reference Patterns in the Andean Community in 41 new york university journal of international law and politics 871-930 (2009) (with Laurence R. Helfer ).
  • Islands of Effective International Adjudication: Constructing an Intellectual Property Rule of Law in the Andean Community in 103 american journal of international law 1-47 (2009) (with Laurence Helfer and Maria Florencia Guerzovich).
  • The Politics of International Regime Complexity in 7 perspectives on politics 13-24 (2009) (with Sophie Meunier).

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  • BA, Cornell University
  • PhD, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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