Dr Matthew Nicholson
Associate Professor in International Law
|Associate Professor in International Law in the Durham Law School|
|Associate Professor in International Law in Durham CELLS (Centre for Ethics and Law in the Life Sciences)|
|Fellow of the Global Policy Institute|
Matthew teaches and researches across the full range of Public International Law. Highlights of work to date include:
- Being awarded the International and Comparative Law Quarterly's 'Young Scholar Prize' (see http://www.biicl.org/newsitem/youngscholar2015) for his 2015 article 'The Political Unconscious of the English Foreign Act of State and Non-Justiciability Doctrine(s)' – recognised as a leading piece on the extent to which national courts will adjudicate on disputes with a foreign state element (referenced in leading textbooks including Professor Malcolm Shaw QC’s International Law (eighth edition, CUP), and Eileen Denza’s chapter on the relationship between international law and national law in Malcolm D. Evans, International Law (fifth edition, OUP)).
- Publishing Re-Situating Utopia in the monograph series Brill Research Perspectives in International Legal Theory and Practice.
Across his research Matthew uses theoretical, inter-disciplinary inquiry to shed new light on aspects of legal practice or legal doctrine. Matthew has particular interests in:
- the theory and nature of international law - see, in ‘publications’ below, 2016’s ‘Walter Benjamin and the Re-Imageination of International Law’, 2017’s ‘Psychoanalyzing International Law(yers)’, and 2019’s Re-Situating Utopia. Across these publications and in ongoing work Matthew seeks to develop an original, inter-disciplinary theory of international legal practice as an exercise in (quasi-artistic, quasi-literary) representation, connecting international legal practice with critical and literary theory, philosophy and contemporary culture.
- the relationship between international law and domestic law. In his award-winning 2015 ICLQ article Matthew used literary theory (specifically, Fredric Jameson's concept of the 'political unconscious') to explain the structure and history of much-debated legal doctrines with roots stretching back to the 17th century, the 'foreign act of state' or 'non-justiciability' doctrines.
- the theory and practice of International Human Rights Law. In his 2016 article, ‘Majority Rule and Human Rights: Identity and Non-Identity in SAS v France’ (see 'publications' below), Matthew used the work of literary / legal theorist Joseph Slaughter, philosopher Theodor Adorno, legal theorists Franz Neumann and Otto Kirchheimer, and political scientist Peter Mair to critique a European Court of Human Rights judgment upholding the legality of a ban on the wearing of the burqa and niqab in France, and wider trends in the ECtHR's decision-making.
Matthew is currently undertaking further research on the relationship between UK law and international law, focusing in particular on recent ‘act of state’ cases.
Matthew joined Durham Law School as Lecturer in International Law in September 2016. Before joining Durham he worked at the University of Southampton as Lecturer in Public International Law (2012-2016). Past experience includes work as a Teaching Fellow (LLB, Public International Law) at UCL (2010-11) and Research Assistant at the LSE (Grantham Research Institute / ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy, 2009-10). Matthew completed pupillage in London and subsequently worked for a law firm before studying for the LLM.
He is a member of the Academic Review Board of the Cambridge International Law Journal and the Editorial Board of Brill Research Perspectives in International Legal Theory and Practice. He served as an External Examiner at SOAS (University of London) from 2017 to 2019, and currently serves (since January 2022) as an external examiner at Edinburgh University (UG international law modules). In January 2018 Matthew gave a Lauterpacht Centre Friday Lecture (Cambridge University - see https://www.law.cam.ac.uk/press/events/2018/01/lcil-friday-lecture-psychoanalyzing-international-law).
Matthew has served in a range of administrative / management roles at Durham and Southampton. He is currently (2022/23) the Law School's Induction Co-ordinator (suporting new colleagues as they arrive / start work in the Law School). From September 2019 to mid-June 2020 he was Chair of Durham Law School's LLB Board of Examiners. From January to September 2018 Matthew served as the Law School's 'ECR Co-Ordinator' (supporting and representing 'Early Career Researcher' colleagues in Law School management, and serving on the Law School's Management Committee in that capacity), and from June 2017 to October 2018 he served as the Law School's representative on the Council of the Society of Legal Scholars. In 2019/20 and 2020/21 Matthew was Co-Convenor of 'Law and Global Justice at Durham' (international law research cluster), a role he also filled in 2016-17 and 2017-18.
Research Supervision / Facilitation
Matthew is committed to supporting research students. In September 2018, working with Dr. Kate Grady (SOAS), Matthew co-convened an international postgraduate colloquium in London on critical approaches to international law. The next colloquium was due to be held in Durham in April 2020 but was postponed and then cancelled due to COVID-19.
Matthew has co-supervised a PhD thesis on critical approaches to international law, and is currently co-supervising a thesis on international legal theory / international criminal law.
Matthew would very much like to hear from anyone interested in pursuing postgraduate research in international law, and would be particularly keen to supervise projects on the nature and theory of international law, the relationship between international law and domestic law, the theory / history of International Human Rights Law, and International Environmental Law. (Profile last updated - August 2023).
- International Law
- International Legal Theory
- Legal Theory (in particular, critical approaches)
- International Environmental Law
- Foreign Relations Law (the relationship between national and international law)
- International Human Rights Law
- International Law on the Use of Force
- Law and Literature
- Frankfurt School Critical Theory (in particular, the work of Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno)
- Nicholson, M. (2019). Justice and the Slaughter Bench: Essays on Law’s Broken Dialectic by Alan Norrie. Abingdon: Routledge, 2017, ISBN: 9781138955110. Legal Studies, 39(1), 183-184. https://doi.org/10.1017/lst.2018.37
Chapter in book
- Nicholson, M. (2019). New International Legal Positivism: Formalism by Another Name?. In L. (. Siliquini-Cinelli (Ed.), Legal positivism in a global and transnational age (93-119). Springer Verlag. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-24705-8_4
- Nicholson, M. (2020). On the Origins of Human Rights. European Human Rights Law Review, 5, 512-525
- Nicholson, M. (2017). On 'The Horniman Walrus'. Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly, 68(3), 370-390
- Nicholson, M. (2017). Psychoanalyzing International Law(yers). German law journal, 18(3), 441-510. https://doi.org/10.1017/s2071832200022033
- Nicholson, M. (2016). Majority rule and human rights: identity and non-identity in SAS v France. Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly, 67(2), 115-136
- Nicholson, M. (2016). Walter Benjamin and the re-imageination of international law. Law and Critique, 27(1), 103-129. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10978-015-9170-z
- Nicholson, M. (2015). The political unconscious of the English foreign act of state and non-justiciability doctrine(s). International and Comparative Law Quarterly, 64(4), 743-781. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0020589315000299
- Nicholson, M. (2014). Fragmented method: Walter Benjamin, law, and representation in Joseph S. Jenkins’ Inheritance Law and Political Theology in Shakespeare and Milton. Law & Literature, 26(3), 389-398. https://doi.org/10.1080/1535685x.2014.928503
- Nicholson, M. (2019). Re-Situating Utopia. Brill Academic Publishers. https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004401204
Other (Digital/Visual Media)
- Nicholson, M., Reid, E., & Tompkins, E. L. (in press). Response to EU Consultation on the 2015 International Climate Change Agreement: Shaping international climate change policy beyond 2020. [[Media unknown]]
- Nicholson, M. (2011, December). Decon-figuring Borders, Re-Bordering Figures. Paper presented at Melbourne Law School Institute for International Law and the Humanities Seminar, Melbourne Law School, Australia
- Nicholson, M. (2017, December). 'The Horniman Walrus' (a 'work in progress' version of my 2017 Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly article). Paper presented at Socio-Legal Studies Association Annual Conference, Newcastle, England
- Nicholson, M. (2018, December). Towards a Representational International Law. Paper presented at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (Law Faculty) Seminar (by invitation), Amsterdam, Netherlands
- Nicholson, M. (2010, December). Fragmentation, Lawyers and Choice. Paper presented at LSE-SOAS Postgraduate International Law Colloquium, SOAS, London
- Nicholson, M. (2014, December). 'Control, Representation, Violence and the Re-Imagination of International Law' (presenting a 'work in progress' version of my 2016 Law and Critique article). Paper presented at Durham Global Policy Institute Seminar Series, Durham University, England
- Nicholson, M. (2015, December). 'Walter Benjamin and the Re-imageination of International Law' (presenting my 2016 Law and Critique article). Paper presented at Institute for Global Law and Policy: The Conference 2015, Harvard Law School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
- Nicholson, M. (2016, December). Dress Code Formal ... or, Hegemony and International Legal Strategy. Paper presented at 25th Annual SLS-BIICL Conference on Theory and International Law: Beyond our comfort zone? Situating the authority of international lawyers, institutions, and other international actors, British Institute of International and Comparative Law, London
- Nicholson, M. (2011, December). Beyond Systems. Paper presented at Towards a Radical International Law (conference), London School of Economics and Political Science, London, England
- Nicholson, M. (2014, December). A History of Faith in International Environmental Law. Paper presented at Theorising and Historicising International Law and the Environment (workshop), University of Keele, England
- Nicholson, M. (2018, December). Psychoanalyzing International Law(yers). Paper presented at Lauterpacht Centre Friday Lecture (Cambridge University, by invitation), Cambridge, England
- Nicholson, M. (2015, December). 'The Political Unconscious of the English Foreign Act of State and Non-Justiciability Doctrine(s)' (presenting a 'work in progress' version of my 2015 ICLQ paper of the same title). Paper presented at International Law Association (British Branch) Spring Conference 2015, University of Essex, England