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School of Law

Dr Isobel Roele, LLB (King's London), LLM, PhD (University of Nottingham)


Lecturer in Law

Room Number: Lincoln's Inn Fields


I joined the Department of Law at QM in September 2014, and I am co-director of our Centre for Law and Society in a Global Context. I have been a visiting scholar at the University of New South Wales, and at Melbourne Law School, and am a member of various academic and policy networks, including the Legal and Materiality network, the International Law and Society CRN of the Law & Society Association, the UN Association (UK), and the Academic Council on the UN System. I have also worked with Tate Modern’s Tate Exchange programme.

I write about internationalism, particularly international organisations, in multi-disciplinary perspective. This research examines the entanglements of three strange bed-fellows:

  • Security
  • Bureaucracy
  • Art

My work is situated in the field of Law and the Humanities, and my most recent research explores what international lawyers can learn from Art History and Theory.

Read Dr Isobel Roele's papers here.

Undergraduate Teaching

Equity and trusts:

  • LAW5003 Equity and Trusts
  • LAW6056 Equity and Trusts

I am an external examiner for the University of Essex.




At present, my research centres on the United Nations. My current research projects are:

Articulating Security: The United Nations and its Infra-Law

My monograph of the same name is under contract with Cambridge University Press, to appear in 2020. The project marries my interests in security and bureaucracy. It uses Michel Foucault’s concept of disciplinary power to describe a particular strategy the UN has developed to deal with “threats without boundaries” like international terrorism and pandemic disease. The description hinges on the concept of infra-law, which provides a space for thinking about the ambivalent and entangled relationship between juridical and managerial order. I borrow from psychoanalysis, particularly Freud’s work on the uncanny, to reflect on what this description tells us about a) how the UN understands security, and b) the effects this understanding of security has on law’s disruptive and transformative potential.

The Art of International Organisation

As part of the CLSGC’s research theme on Aesthetics and Materiality, I am developing a ground-breaking project that thinks about how international organisations like the United Nations use art in their public engagement activities: from awareness-raising campaigns, to commissions of stamps and posters, to the UN’s impressive art collections, the UN uses and has used art work to communicate with diverse publics across the world. These endeavours have a thorny politics which is often ignored, and which my project investigates using the work of Hannah Arendt and Jacques Rancière. In an age of national-populism, I explore whether and how about art might enrich, trouble, and transform relationships between international organisations and their publics.


  • Roele, Isobel, Articulating Security: the United Nations and its Infra-Law (under contract, Cambridge University Press, submission 2019)
  • Roele, Isobel, “We Are Making a New World”, in Shane Chalmers and Sundhya Pahuja (eds), (The Routledge Handbook of International Law and the Humanities Routledge, forthcoming)
  • Roele, Isobel, ‘Around Arendt’s Table: Bureaucracy and the Non-Permanent Members of the United Nations Security Council” 33(1) Leiden Journal of International Law (2020) - forthcoming
  • Roele, Isobel, Policing Critique’ 81(3) Modern Law Review (2018) 701-721
  • Gammeltoft-Hansen, Thomas and Guild, Elspeth and Moreno-Lax, Violeta and Panizzon, Marion and Roele, Isobel, ‘What is a Compact? Migrants’ Rights and State Responsibilities Regarding the Design of the UN Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration’ (October 11, 2017). Available at SSRN:
  • Roele, Isobel, ‘The Making of International Lawyers: Winnicott’s Transitional Objects’ in Hohmann and Joyce, International Law’s Objects (forthcoming, 2018) OUP
  • Roele, Isobel, ‘Side-lining Subsidiarity: UN Security Council ‘Legislation’ and its Infra-Law’ 79(2) Law & Contemporary Problems (2016) 189-21
  • Roele, Isobel, ‘From illiberal to incorrigible: A new strategy for humanitarian enforcement action in Syria’ 15 Baltic Yearbook of International Law (2015) 104-133
  • Roele, Isobel, ‘Reading UN Security Council Resolutions Through Valverde’s Chronotopes’ 23(3) Feminist Legal Studies (2015) 369-37
  • Roele, Isobel, “The Vicious Circles of Habermas’ Cosmopolitics” 25(3) Law and Critique (2014) 119-229

Recent conference papers

  • ‘Peace Building in Midtown Manhattan’, Melbourne Law School, 18 May 2018
  • ‘We Are Making a New World’ Melbourne Law School, 15 May 2018
  • ‘Art and the United Nations’, Melbourne Law School, 14 May 2018
  • ‘The Making of International Lawyers’, University of New South Wales, 2 May 2018
  • ‘The United Nations and the New York Declaration on Refugees and Migrants’, Ryerson University, Toronto, 5th November 2017‘Paul Nash: Modernism and International Law’, JC Smith Distinguished Visitor Workshop, University of Nottingham, March 2017
  • ‘Articulated Security: Some Implications for Development’, University of Sao Paolo, September 2016
  • ‘Security Council working methods: Working together for collective security’, Security Council Analysis Network Workshop, Florence, September 2017
  • ‘Disciplinary Power and the Basement of International Law’, Foucault, Law, History and Politics Workshop, Senate House London, June 2017
  • ‘Articulated Security; The Rise (and Fall) of the Machines’, CeCIL Seminar, University of Kent, October 2017
  • ‘Sidelining Subsidiarity: United Nations Security Council “Legislation” and Its Infra-Law’, International Society of Public Law ICONS Conference, June 2016, Humboldt University, Berlin


I am always interested in taking on new PhD students with left-field projects in the broad areas of Law and the Humanities, Critical Theory, and International Law. If you are interested in security, international organisations, or bureaucracy, all the better, but there’s no prerequisite that you share my research interests. I’m looking for disruptive voices with transformative projects.

Current Students:

  • Daniel Hogers, 'Fact Patterns in Findings of Crimes against Humanity in International Criminal Law'
  • Sanya Karakas 
  • Ceren Mutus Toprakseven, 'Shared Responsibility in the context of Extraterritorialised/Privatised Migration Controls'

Public Engagement

My research explores the relationship between art work and visions of global publics. At present, I am especially interested in art-centred public engagement, and am actively looking for collaborators in the art world. Please contact me at for more information.

Bodies in Motion

I created an installation with the artist Amy Corcoran for Queen Mary University of London's collaboration with Tate Modern’s Tate Exchange in 2019, on the theme of Bodies in Motion.

We have published accounts of the event on the International State Crime Initiative blog ('Political Gamesmanship' (2019)), and Platforma’s Arts and Refugees Network ('Serious Play' (2019)).