Miriam Bak Mckenna

affiliated with the university

Research areas and keywords


  • International Law

Professional work

Miriam Bak McKenna is a Lecturer in International Law and Human Rights. Her research interests encompass the history and theory of international law, with a particular focus on the history of decolonisation, law and aesthetics, critical legal studies, and materialist and feminist approaches to international law. 

Miriam received her doctorate from the University of Copenhagen (2015), where she was a member of icourts, the Danish National Research Foundation's Centre for Excellence for International Courts. She also has degrees in law from the University of Western Australia (LLB, 2009) and the University of Copenhagen (LLM, Distinction, 2011), and a degree in art history and english literature from the University of Western Australia (BA, 2009).  During the course of her doctoral research, she was a Visiting Scholar at the Lauterpacht Centre at Cambridge University and at the University of Toronto. Prior to starting as a Postdoctoral Fellow, she was a lecturer and research fellow in International Law at the University of Copenhagen. She has worked as a researcher for a number of organisations, including the UNODC and the Law Reform Commission of Western Australia, and has taught international law, EU and international human rights law at the Univeristy of Copenhagen and Murdoch University. After finishing her PhD in 2015 she took two periods of maternity leave in 2015/2016 and again in 2016/2017.  



I am particularly interested in the space outside of traditional, doctrinal understandings of international law and legal history, and the manner in which the global legal order has been imagined and actualised by various legal actors from a sociological standpoint. 

My doctrinal project sought to provide a new, interdisciplinary perspective on the history of self-determination and its complicated and pivotal impact on the development of international law over the past centuries. Drawing on broader political, socio-legal and critical approaches to law it focussed on the  multiple interpretive and normative visions of self-determination which exist in international law. I drew particular attention to the manner in which the polysemy and indeterminacy of self-determination as a legal idea has provided a unique juridical space in which groups may either challenge or affirm the limitations of the existing normative basis of law, enabling critical moments of encounter between previously excluded claimants and established legal orders. 

My current research explores several interrelated areas: Drawing on my interest on international legal history, one project seeks to trace the changing image of international law by unravelling the connections between architectural style and broader patterns of international legal and political change. My aim is to understand how international law is shaped by architecture and is also expressed through architecture, as well as what these architectural artefacts can offer our understanding of the history, display and transformation of law, as well as the methodological and theoretical limitations of this endeavor. 

I draw extensively on feminist and marxist theories and methods in my work and I am currently exploring a project which expands feminist materialism into the international legal field. I am particularly interested in issues of social reproduction and unpaid labour and how these dynamics play out at both the national and international legal level. I have also begun to focus on the history of women's rights during the twentieth century, with a particular focus on the significant contribution of Socialist and Third World women to debates about women's rights. 

Another project examines the emergent field of comparative international law. The project aims to uncover and clarify the potential for the emergent field of comparative international law to foster a new outlook on the field of international law. I argue that an emancipated, incorporative, and interdisciplinary comparative international law might play an important role in decolonizing international legal scholarship, by challenging the varieties of Eurocentrism that continue to define the field, while providing hospitable ground for critical and interdisciplinary projects, especially those that might join in the effort to decolonize international law and to project alternative, more equitable forms of coexistence.


Areas of Interest

  • Legal History
  • Legal and political theory
  • Comparative International Law
  • Feminist, materialist and TWAIL theory
  • Postcolonial legal studies
  • Law and aesthetics


  • Public International Law
  • International Human Rights Law
  • International Law and its Histories 
  • LLM Supervision 

Recent research outputs

Miriam Bak Mckenna, 2020, (Accepted/In press) The Routledge Handbook of Translation and Activism. Tahmasebian, K. & Gould, R. R. (eds.). Routledge

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapter

Miriam Bak Mckenna, 2020, (Submitted) Research Handbook on Law and Marxism. Edward Elgar Publishing

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapter

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