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Heidi Matthews

Heidi Matthews

S.J.D. 2014

Graduate Fellow, Edmund J. Safra Center for Ethics, Harvard University
Fellow, Film Study Center, Harvard University

hmatthews at


The Political Authority of International Criminal Law

I am interested in the relationship between political authority and legal legitimacy in international law. Currently, my dissertation pursues the idea that recent developments in international criminal law (ICL) – namely, the creation of the International Criminal Court (ICC) – are symptomatic of a profound shift in the foundations of international normativity toward a truly non-state-centric vision of legal authority. I posit that the potential for jurisdiction over nationals of non-States-Parties – i.e. individuals over whom the ICC possesses no political authority – breaks up the state monopoly on the legitimate use of force without substituting in its place a clear basis of authority. This marks a destabilization of sovereignty that makes way for the emergence of a new organizing principle(s) in international law. Thus, ICL asks a foundational question whether popular sovereignty is possible on the international plane without (state) sovereignty.

Rather than preserving the concept of absolute sovereignty in its traditional iteration as a priori necessary for political legitimacy, my dissertation attempts to theorize the differentiation of emerging sources of legal authority – non-state actors, victims, social movements, etc – as competing against state sovereignty for international legitimacy. In attempting to reconnect political projects with international law, it will offer a (re)construction of the justificatory bases for the international legal order that posits the accessibility of substantive international norms while preserving the value of politics for the legitimacy of legal rule.

Fields of Research and Supervisors

  • Law and Politics of Modern War with Professor Martha Minow, Harvard Law School, Overall Faculty Supervisor
  • Legal and Social Theory with Professor Duncan Kennedy, Harvard Law School
  • Legal History with Professor Charles Donahue, Harvard Law School
  • Political Theory, with Professor Richard Tuck, Department of Government, Harvard University

Additional Research Interests

  • Public international law
  • Domestic criminal law
  • Legal theory
  • Law and the arts


  • Harvard Law School, S.J.D. 2008 – 2014
  • Harvard Law School, LL.M. Program 2007-2008
  • McGill University, LL.B.-B.C.L. 2007
  • Mount Allison University, B.A. 2004

Academic Appointments and Fellowships

  • Graduate Fellow, 2012-2013, Edmund J. Safra Center for Ethics, Harvard University
  • Fellow, 2012-2013, Film Study Center, Harvard University
  • Harvard Law School, 2012-2013, Graduate Program Fellow, Writing Workshop T.A.
  • Harvard Law School, 2012, Graduate Program Fellowship, Legal Research, Writing and Analysis T.A.
  • John Peters Humphrey Fellowship, 2011-2012, Canadian Council on International Law
  • Harvard Law School, 2011-2012, Graduate Program Fellow, Writing Workshop T.A.
  • Doctoral Fellow, 2008-2011, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada
  • Harvard Extension School, 2010-2011, Teaching Fellow
  • Research Fellow, 2009-2010, Program on Justice, Welfare & Economics, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Harvard Law School, 2008-2009, Graduate Program Fellow, LL.M. Advisor
  • Harvard College, 2009, Teaching Fellow, Core Program
  • Harvard College, 2008, Teaching Fellow, Committee on Degrees in Studies of Women, Gender and Sexuality
  • Harvard Extension School, 2008, Teaching Fellow

Additional Information

  • Languages: English, French, German (beginner)

Last Updated: March 12, 2015