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Expert ignorance: the law and politics of rule of law reform

Add to calendar 2024-02-14 16:00 2024-02-14 18:00 Europe/Rome Expert ignorance: the law and politics of rule of law reform Sala del Capitolo Badia Fiesolana YYYY-MM-DD


14 February 2024

16:00 - 18:00 CET


Sala del Capitolo

Badia Fiesolana

Book roundtable with Dr Deval Desai (Edinburgh Law School).

Today, the rule of law is a technical triumph of development practice – or a tragedy, depending on who you ask. A transnational constellation of experts supposedly give advice on, or prescribe, ‘good’ legal systems to countries in the Global South, for good or for ill. Yet these experts can, and often do, deny the form and content of their own expertise: We don’t know what the rule of law is, nor how to do it. The book identifies this form of expertise as ‘expert ignorance’. Drawing on insights from a variety of transnational fields, along with sociology, history, and performance studies, the book studies how this paradoxical form of expertise works, and identifies its effects on the rule of law and expert governance more broadly. Rooted in illustrative cases, and ranging from global to local perspectives, the book is simultaneously a theoretical and methodological contribution to studies of expertise, and an analytical and empirical contribution to transnational law and governance in the context of development.

About the speaker:

Dr Deval Desai is Reader in International Economic Law. He joined Edinburgh Law School in 2020. His work focuses on law and development, administrative law and regulation, theories of the state, and (de)colonial patterns of knowledge and authority. He has taught on these topics at the Geneva Graduate Institute, Harvard Law School, Manchester, Northeastern Law School, SOAS, and the Universidad de los Andes.

Deval previously held research positions at Harvard Law School and the Geneva Graduate Institute. He serves on the editorial board of the Hague Journal on the Rule of Law, the Emerging Scholars Forum of Global Perspectives, and has served on the editorial board of the Harvard International Law Journal. Deval is an interdisciplinary scholar. His articles appear in leading journals in law, political science, and development studies. His first monograph, Expert Ignorance (Cambridge University Press; open access), draws on legal and social theory, development studies, international relations, and performance and theatre studies. His work is also informed by a decade of experience working for the World Bank on rule of law and governance in sub-Saharan Africa; as well as advising the UN on rule of law issues.


Gabriele Wadlig (EUI)

Sigrid Boysen (EUI - LAW Department)

Sebastian Von Massow (EUI)

Scientific Organiser(s):

Max Weber Programme


Deval Desai (University of Edinburgh (Edinburgh Law School))

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