Faculty Research Profiles


Professor Ian Johnstone

An overarching theme that informs Ian Johnstone’s research is the role of law in international politics, focusing on international organizations. The work has culminated in recent books: The Law and Practice of the United Nations (2nd ed, Oxford University Press, 2016) and The Oxford Handbook of International Organizations (Oxford University Press, 2016). The first is a co-authored volume, the second a co-edited volume. 
Within that overarching theme, his research divides into two broad areas – one theoretical and the other more policy-oriented. The former includes a book entitled The Power of Deliberation: International Law, Politics and Organizations, published by Oxford University Press in 2011. Building on theories of deliberative democracy, the book explores the impact of legal argumentation on the conduct of international affairs. Johnstone examines deliberations in and around international organizations and posits that “interpretive communities” coalesce there, setting the parameters of legal discourse. He tests the impact of the discourse by looking at a variety of cases, from the interventions in Kosovo and Iraq, to quasi-legislative acts by the UN Security Council and debates in the World Trade Organization.

His interest in interpretive communities and legal discourse falls within the growing body of international law/international relations (IL/IR) literature. Articles in that vein have appeared in the American Journal of International Law, European Journal of International Law, Global Governance and the George Washington International Law Review. In a book chapter on “Law-making by International Organizations: Perspectives from IL/IR Theory” (Jeff Dunoff and Mark Pollack eds, Interdisciplinary Perspectives on International Law and International Relations: The State of the Art, 2012), Johnstone considers three clusters of international relations theory that serve as alternative lenses for analyzing so-called delegated law-making: rational choice, constructivism and discursive theory. The argument was extended in a recent chapter on “The Security Council and International Law” (Sebastian von Einseidel, David Malone, and Bruno Stagno Ugarte eds, The UN Security Council in the 21st Century, 2016).  Johnstone is currently working on a paper that looks at alternative theoretical explanations for the emergence of international organizations law, contrasting functionalist and constitutionalist accounts. 

Johnstone’s more policy-oriented work has focused mainly on international peace and security as practiced in and by international organizations. In addition to articles and book chapters on the use of force, peace operations, non-proliferation and democracy promotion, he has edited two books on peacekeeping, and was the founding editor and lead author of the Annual Review of Global Peace Operations. A new research area for Johnstone concerns global health security, clustered in two sets of issues: biosecurity; and conflict and health.  The first -- biosecurity -- encompasses threats from biological weapons and naturally occurring diseases. The second concerns the impact of conflict on health and, conversely, the impact of health crises on post-conflict reconstruction. For both, Johnstone is exploring the legal, institutional and conceptual issues they raise.  For example, what are the implications (positive and negative) of “securitizing” health by treating infectious disease as a security threat?