Karen Alter

Professor of Political Science and Law (Courtesy)


Karen J. Alter is Professor of Political Science and Law at Northwestern University, a permanent visiting professor at the iCourts Center for Excellence, University of Copenhagen Faculty of Law, and the co-director Research Group on Global Capitalism and Law at the Buffett Institute at Northwestern University.

Alter’s current research investigates the legalization and judicialization of international relations in Europe, Africa, Latin America and with respect to economic, human rights and mass atrocities.

Alter is author of the award-winning book The New Terrain of International Law: Courts, Politics, Rights (Princeton University Press, 2014), and also International Legal Transplants: Law and Politics of the Andean Tribunal of Justice (Oxford University Press, 2017, with Laurence Helfer), The European Court’s Political Power (Oxford University Press, 2009) and Establishing the Supremacy of European Law (Oxford University press, 2001), and more than forty-five articles and book chapters on the politics of international law, comparative international courts, and international regime complexity. She is also co-editor of the Oxford Handbook on International Adjudication (Oxford University Press, 2014) and International Court Authority (Oxford University Press, forthcoming).

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. She serves on the editorial boards of International Organization, the American Journal of International Law, International Studies Review, Law and Social Inquiry, Journal of International Dispute Settlement and (previously) European Union Politics. Alter is chair of the American Political Science Association’s International History and Politics section, and serves on the Executive Committee of the American Society of International Law.

Alter has been a visiting scholar at Northwestern Law, 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.

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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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