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Vasuki Nesiah

Associate Professor of Practice
(212) 998-9151
1 Wash Pl, Room 708

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B.A. Philosophy & Government, Cornell University, 1990
J.D., Harvard Law School, 1993
S.J.D., Harvard Law School, 2000

Vasuki Nesiah is a legal scholar with a focus on public international law. Her main areas of research include the law and politics of international human rights and humanitarianism, with a particular focus on transitional justice. She has published widely on the history and politics of human rights, humanitarianism, international criminal law, international feminisms and colonial legal history. These continue to be areas of research and writing but the primary focus of her current research is reparations. A volume which she co-edited with Luis Eslava and Michael Fakhri, A Global History of Bandung and Critical Traditions in International Law will be published by Cambridge University Press later this year. This work reflects her continued interest in critical approaches to international law that find their intellectual and political home in the global south and in the grappling with decolonization. She is one of the founding members of the Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL) and has continued as an active participant in this global network of scholars for over two decades. Nesiah teaches human rights, law and social theory, and the politics of war and memory at NYU. She also continues as core faculty in Harvard Law School’s Institute for Global Law and Policy (IGLP); In this capacity she has taught for six years in the IGLP summer and winter workshops in Cambridge, Doha, Capetown, Madrid and Bangkok. Currently, she is also a Senior Fellow at Melbourne Law School where she taught a course on human rights, gender and development in a visiting capacity. Prior to joining Gallatin, Professor Nesiah taught in the International Relations and Gender Studies concentrations at Brown University where she also served as Director of International Affairs. Formerly, she taught at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. She serves on the international editorial committees of the journals Feminist Legal Studies and the London Review of International Law and on the International Advisory Board of the Institute of International Law and the Humanities at the University of Melbourne; she is also an Associate Fellow with the Asia Society in New York. Before entering the academy full time, Professor Nesiah spent over seven years in practice at the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), where she worked on law and policy issues in the field of post-conflict human rights for over seven years. Originally from Sri Lanka, she earned her BA in Philosophy and Government at Cornell University, was a visiting student in the Philosophy, Politics, and Economics Program at Oxford University, and earned her JD and SJD, an interdisciplinary doctorate in public international law, at Harvard Law School. She was awarded a fellowship for a post-doctoral program in human rights at Columbia Law School. Professor Nesiah's publications can be accessed at

Teaching and Research Interests

international legal studies; human rights and humanitarianism; politics of memory and transitional justice; law, culture and society; law and politics of violence; critical social theory; colonialism and postcolonial modernities; feminisms; globalization; development policy; jurisprudence of identity; South Asia

Vasuki Nesiah

Recent News

In January 2017, Professor Vasuki Nesiah collaborated with Anthony Anghie of National University of Singapore, convening a Workshop on Third World Approaches to International Law, University of Colombo Law Faculty, in Colombo, Sri Lanka.


“Theorizing Transitional Justice” in Anne Orford and Florian Hoffman, eds., Oxford Handbook of International Legal Theory, Oxford University Press (2016)

 “Doing History with Impunity” in Dennis Davis, Karen Engle and Zina Miller, eds. Anti-Impunity and the Human Rights Agenda, Cambridge University Press (2016)

“Local Ownership of Global Governance”, Journal of International Criminal Justice Volume 14 (2016), 985-1009

“Human Shields/Human Crosshairs: Colonial Legacies and Contemporary Wars “ American Journal of International Law Unbound, Volume 110 (January 2017)

“‘Saviors, Victims and Savages’ on the Post-Conflict Circuit: The Field of Transitional Justice” in Bhavani Fonseka ed. Transitional Justice in Sri Lanka, Center for Policy Alternatives (2017)

"Indebted: The Cruel Optimism of Leaning-in Empowerment” in Janet Halley et. al, ed.s, Governance Feminisms, University of Minnesota Press (Forthcoming 2017)

“The Escher Human Rights Elevator” in Sally Merry and Tine Destrooper eds., Human Rights Transformation in an Unequal World, UPenn Press (Forthcoming)

“Gender and Forms of Conflict: The Moral Hazards of Dating the Security Council” in Fionnuala Ni Aolain, Naomi Cahn, Nahla Valji and Dina Haynes eds., Oxford Handbook on Gender and Conflict, Oxford University Press (Forthcoming)


Decolonizing the Future of the Past, Law and Society 2017, Mexico City (June 2017)

Learning from Failure in Law and Governance, Harvard University, Cambridge, USA (June 2017)

Interdisciplinary Approaches to Global Justice, A Methodological Conversation between International Lawyers and Philosophers, University of Michigan, (May 18-19 2017)

Indebted: The Cruel Optimism of Leaning into Debt, Legal Theory Workshop, University of Melbourne, Australia (April 2017)

International Law Lost in Translation: Palestine, Reading and Interruption, Conference on International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Exceptionalism and Responsibility, University of Cork, Ireland (March 31-Apri 2, 2017)

Reproducing Orthodoxy: Hybridity as a Trojan Horse, Conference on Hybrid Justice, London School of Economics (March 2017)

Reparations: The jagged time of catastrophe, Annual Cecil Lecture, Centre for Critical International Law, Kent Law School, Canterbury, UK (March 2017)

Indebted: The Cruel Optimism of Leaning into Debt, ICPS and the Center for the Study of Human Rights, London School of Economics, UK (March 2017)

Doing History With Impunity, Transnational Law Institute Colloquium, Kings College, University of London, UK (March 2017)

"The law, this violent thing” - Dissident Memory and Democratic Futures, Guest Lecture in class on Contemporary Critical Legal Thinking: Perspectives from the South, Harvard Law School, Cambridge, (8th March, 2017)

Troubling Transition: Colonial and Postcolonial, University of Frankfurt, Germany (January 2017)

Faculty Roundtable on Political Economy, TIJ,/IGLP Bangkok, Thailand (January 2017)

Commissioning Civil Society, Keynote Speech, Transitional Justice and Civil Society in Asia and the Pacific Workshop, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia (September 2016)



2018 Fall

Law, Memory, (In)Justice

2018 Spring

Law and Social Change: Race and the Politics of Property

2018 Fall

Causes Beyond Borders: Human Rights Activism and Global Governance

Critical Race Theory and Your Education

2017 Fall

Law and Political Critique: From Foucault to Tupac