Photo of Umut Özsu

Umut Özsu

Assistant Professor

Degrees:B.A. (Alberta); M.A., J.D., LL.M., S.J.D. (Toronto)
Phone:613-520-2600 x 3682
Office:D498 LA (Loeb Building)

Umut Özsu is a scholar of public international law and the history and theory of international law, with a focus on law and development, international refugee law, and international human rights law. He works mainly on issues relating to decolonization, nation-building, and humanitarian intervention, drawing from economic history, historical sociology, and socio-legal studies in addition to positive law.

Umut’s first book, Formalizing Displacement: International Law and Population Transfers, was published by Oxford University Press in 2015. It situates population transfer within the broader history of international law by examining the 1922–34 exchange of minorities between Greece and Turkey—the first legally structured large-scale “experiment” in compulsory population exchange in modern international history. In line with recent attempts to rethink traditional accounts of international legal history, the book complicates received assumptions about international law’s normative and institutional progress by exploring the context within which population transfer emerged as a distinct mechanism of security-driven conflict-resolution.

Umut is currently completing a second book. Entitled Completing Humanity: The International Law of Decolonization, this book examines the legal dimensions of the post-Second World War wave of decolonization. Focusing on the work of jurists hailing from the Third World, it considers a range of developments with complex and ambiguous implications for contemporary legal thought and practice: debates about the nature of “political” and “economic” self-determination, from the 1940s to the 1980s; the articulation of the idea of “jus cogens norms” at the 1968–69 Vienna Conference on the Law of Treaties; the rise and fall of the “New International Economic Order” project during the 1970s and 1980s; a series of disputes about the tension between the principle of permanent sovereignty over natural resources and the concept of a “common heritage of mankind”; and the elaboration of an international right to development during the 1980s.

Umut has served as a junior faculty member at Harvard Law School’s Institute for Global Law and Policy, and as a junior fellow at the University of Toronto Centre for Criminology and Socio-Legal Studies. He is the recipient of numerous awards and grants, sits on the board of advisory editors of the London Review of International Law, and is part of the editorial team for the forthcoming thirteen-volume Cambridge History of International Law.

For further information, including a full curriculum vitae, please see here.

Principal publications


Formalizing Displacement: International Law and Population Transfers (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015).

Special issues

“International Legal Histories of the Ottoman Empire” 18 (2016) Journal of the History of International Law 1–145. [Symposium issue co-edited and introduced with Thomas Skouteris.]

Book chapters

“The Transnational Law of Land Grabbing—A Marxian Approach” in Peer Zumbansen, ed., Research Handbook on the Politics of Transnational Law (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2018) [6500 words; forthcoming].

“Decolonizing Mohammed Bedjaoui: Algeria, Western Sahara, and the Struggle for International Law” in Jochen von Bernstorff and Philipp Dann, eds., The Battle for International Law in the Decolonization Era (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018) [8000 words; forthcoming].

“Emotional Restraint as Legalist Internationalism: Egon Schwelb’s Liberalism After the Fall” in Moria Paz and James Loeffler, eds., The Law of Strangers: Critical Perspectives on Jewish Lawyering and International Legal Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017). [3000 words; forthcoming].

“Legal Form” in Jean d’Aspremont and Sahib Singh, eds., Fundamental Concepts for International Law: The Construction of a Discipline (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2017) [6500 words; forthcoming].

“‘Let us first of all have unity among us’: Bandung, International Law, and the Empty Politics of Solidarity” in Luis Eslava, Michael Fakhri, and Vasuki Nesiah, eds., Bandung, Global History, and International Law: Critical Pasts and Pending Futures (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017) 293-307.

“Neoliberalism and the New International Economic Order: A History of ‘Contemporary Legal Thought’” in Christopher L. Tomlins and Justin Desautels-Stein, eds., Searching for Contemporary Legal Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017) 330-47.

“An Anti-Imperialist Universalism? Jus Cogens and the Politics of International Law” in Martti Koskenniemi, Walter Rech, and Manuel Jiménez Fonseca, eds., International Law and Empire: Historical Comparisons (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016) 295–313.

“The Ottoman Empire, the Origins of Extraterritoriality, and International Legal Theory” in Florian Hoffmann and Anne Orford, eds., The Oxford Handbook of the Theory of International Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016) 123–37.

“From the ‘Semi-Civilized State’ to the ‘Emerging Market’: Remarks on the International Legal History of the Semi-Periphery” in Ugo Mattei and John D. Haskell, eds., Research Handbook on Political Economy and Law (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2015) 246–59.

“Ottoman Empire” in Bardo Fassbender and Anne Peters, eds., The Oxford Handbook of the History of International Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012) 429–48.

Journal articles

“Rendering Sovereignty Permanent? The Multiple Legacies of the New International Economic Order” [2016] European Yearbook of International Economic Law [11000 words; forthcoming].

“Ottoman International Law?” 3 (2016) Journal of the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association 369–76.

“Ukraine, International Law, and the Political Economy of Self-Determination” 16 (2015) German Law Journal 434–51.

“‘In the interests of mankind as a whole’: Mohammed Bedjaoui’s New International Economic Order” 6 (2015) Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development 129–43.

“International Legal Fields” 5 (2014) Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development 277–92.

“‘A thoroughly bad and vicious solution’: Humanitarianism, the World Court, and the Modern Origins of Population Transfer” 1 (2013) London Review of International Law 99–127.

“Politis and the Limits of Legal Form” 23 (2012) European Journal of International Law 243–53.

“Fabricating Fidelity: Nation-Building, International Law, and the Greek–Turkish Population Exchange” 24 (2011) Leiden Journal of International Law 823–47.

“Agency, Universality, and the Politics of International Legal History” 51 (2010) Harvard International Law Journal Online 58–72.

“The Question of Form: Methodological Notes on Dialectics and International Law” 23 (2010) Leiden Journal of International Law 687–707.

“‘Receiving’ the Swiss Civil Code: Translating Authority in Early Republican Turkey” 6 (2010) International Journal of Law in Context 63–89.

“De-territorializing and Re-territorializing Lotus: Sovereignty and Systematicity as Dialectical Nation-Building in Early Republican Turkey” 22 (2009) Leiden Journal of International Law 29–49.