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“Expert Ignorance”: Book launch with Deval Desai

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Auditorium A2 and online

With Deval Desai, Gopalan Balachandran, Anna Leander, and Paige Morrow

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This panel will mark the launch of the book Expert Ignorance: The Law and Politics of Rule of Law Reform. Today, a transnational constellation of ‘rule of law’ experts advise on ‘good’ legal systems to countries in the Global South. Yet these experts often claim that the ‘rule of law’ is nearly impossible to define, and they frequently point to the limits of their own expertise. In this innovative book, Deval Desai identifies this form of expertise as ‘expert ignorance’. Adopting an interdisciplinary approach, Desai draws on insights from legal theory, sociology, development studies, and performance studies to explore how this paradoxical form of expertise works in practice.

Welcome and moderation:

Gopalan Balachandran, Professor, International History and Politics and Co-director, Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy

Book presentation:

Deval Desai, Reader in International Economic Law at the University of Edinburgh



Anna Leander, Professor, International Relations/Political science and Chair of the Department of International Relations/Political Science, Geneva Graduate Institute

Paige Morrow, Senior Legal Advisor to the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression and Research Associate, Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy

Neus Torbisco-Casals, Senior Research Fellow, Hirschman Centre on Democracy and Adjunct Professor, International Law Department, Geneva Graduate Institute.

With a range of illustrative cases that span both global and local perspectives, this book considers the impact of expert ignorance on the rule of law and on expert governance more broadly. Contributing to the study of transnational law, governance, and expertise, Desai demonstrates the enduring power of proclaiming what one does not know. This title is available as Open Access on Cambridge Core.

Expert book

Deval Desai is Reader in International Economic Law at the University of Edinburgh. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and the Young Academy of Scotland, and was an inaugural International Rule of Law Fellow at the Bingham Centre.

Deval Desai



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