Karen J. Alter

Professor of Political Science and Law (Courtesy)


Karen J. Alter is Professor of Political Science and Law at Northwestern University, a permanent visiting professor at the iCourts Center for Excellence, University of Copenhagen Faculty of Law, and the co-director Research Group on Global Capitalism and Law at the Buffett Institute at Northwestern University.

Alter’s expertise concerns global and regional judicialization of international relations, with a particular focus on international adjudication.

Alter is author of the award-winning book The New Terrain of International Law: Courts, Politics, Rights (Princeton University Press, 2014); International Legal Transplants: Law and Politics of the Andean Tribunal of Justice (Oxford University Press, 2017, with Laurence Helfer); The European Court’s Political Power (Oxford University Press, 2009) and Establishing the Supremacy of European Law (Oxford University press, 2001), and more than fifty articles and book chapters on the politics of international law, comparative international courts, and international regime complexity.  She is also co-editor of the Oxford Handbook on International Adjudication (Oxford University Press, 2014) and International Court Authority (Oxford University Press, 2018).

Alter serves on the editorial boards of the American Journal of International LawInternational Studies Review, and Journal of International Dispute Settlement, and she is a member of the Council of Foreign Relations.

Alter is a former Guggenheim Fellow, winner of the Berlin Prize from the American Academy in Berlin, and the winner of the American Society of International Law’s Certificate of Merit for a Preeminent Contribution to Creative Scholarship.

Alter’s new research focuses on the construction of global economic rules regulating trade and money, and on the determinants of politically sustainable capitalism.

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Selected Publications

  • The Empire of International Law?, 113 American Journal of International Law 183 (2019).
  • International Court Authority, edited with Laurence R. Helfer, & Mikael Rask Madsen (2018).
  • Theorizing the Judicialization of International Relations, 63 International Studies Quarterly 449 (2019) (with Emilie Marie Hafner-Burton & Laurence Helfer).
  • Backlash Against International Courts in West, East and Southern Africa: Causes & Consequences, 27 European Journal of International Law 293 (2016) (with James Thuo Gatthi, and Laurence R. Helfer).
  • New Terrain of International Law: Courts, Politics, Rights (Princeton University Press 2014).

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  • BA, Cornell University
  • PhD, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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