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 expertise concerns global and regional judicialization of international relations, with a particular focus on international adjudication.

Alter is author of the award-winning book The New Terrain of International Law: Courts, Politics, Rights (Princeton University Press, 2014); 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 fifty 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, 2018).

Alter serves on the editorial boards of the American Journal of International LawInternational Studies ReviewJournal of International Dispute Settlement, and International Organization, and she is a member of the Council of Foreign Relations.

Alter is a former Guggenheim Fellow, winner of the Berlin Prize from the American Academy in Berlin, and the winner of the American Society of International Law’s Certificate of Merit for a Preeminent Contribution to Creative Scholarship.

Alter’s new research focuses on the construction of global economic rules regulating trade and money, and on the determinants of politically sustainable capitalism.

View Full Bio

Selected Publications

  • New Terrain Of International Law: Courts, Politics, Rights (Princeton University Press 2014).
  • Nature or Nurture: Lawmaking in the European Court of Justice and the Andean Tribunal of Justice, 64 International Organization 563-592 (2010) (with Laurence Helfer ).
  • The European Court’s Political Power Across Time and Space.
  • The European Court’s Political Power: Selected Essays (Oxford University Press 2009).
  • The Andean Tribunal of Justice and Its Interlocutors: Understanding Preliminary Reference Patterns in the Andean Community , 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 , 103 American Journal of International Law 1-47 (2009) (with Laurence Helfer and Maria Florencia Guerzovich).

View All Publications


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

Back to Faculty