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Fall 2014 - Rising Powers: Power Shifts in International Law and Global Governance

Mondays (4:30pm-6:30pm)


The last century saw the unprecedented emergence of an international legal order intended to govern all aspects of state relations from trade and finance, to human rights and governance, to health and environmental regulation.  While global in scope, decision making and agenda setting in multilateral bodies has largely been seen to be dominated by Western and developed powers.  The economic and political rise of the BRICs over the past decade has begun to challenge that dominance, with significant consequences for existing norms of international law ranging from human rights to the role of the state in economic development, from international trade and investment to traditional and non-traditional security issues. 

This ground-breaking Global Research Seminar, co-taught by Professors Burke-White and deLisle will examine the implications of power shifts on international law and global governance. The course will focus on case studies of Brazil and China, with an emphasis on those areas where either of these powers has challenged existing norms and practices, or has been a source of significant potential cooperation or conflict w/ the United States.

In addition to several joint sessions during the fall semester, this course will be divided into two sections, a Brazil track and a China track.  Students must indicate their preferred track when applying to register (further instructions below).


The seminar will meet primarily during the fall semester and for additional sessions(approximately 3-5) in the spring semester.

Students must participate in one of the week-long field research visits taking place over the winter/spring breaks: China (January 3-10, 2015), and Brazil (March 7-14, 2015). In order to be eligible for this class, students must be able to attend the entirety of one research visit.  Permission may be granted to participate in both trips on a case by case basis.


Students will be responsible for arranging and paying for their own transportation to/fromChina or Brazil. Students must arrive on the specified date and remain with the group until the end of the program. There will be no exceptions for late arrivals or early departures. Students who arrive late or depart early may be subject to failing the course.

In addition to airfare, students will be charged a $900 program fee (for accommodations, in-country transportation and other programmatic expenses.) The trip fee assumes double occupancy accommodations. Single occupancy accommodations may be available by request for an additional fee. Some meals and cultural excursions will be covered by the program fees, but students will be expected to cover additional meals, sightseeing activities and incidental expenses.

Penn Law will provide partial or full financial aid to qualifying students. Students are also able to increase their loans to cover costs associated with this trip. After enrollment is determined, students seeking financial aid will be asked to provide a separate letter explaining the basis for their need. Financial aid decisions will be made in a timely fashion to allow students to drop the course should they wish to.


This class is open to 2L, 3L, and LLM students; there are no pre-requisites for enrolling in the seminar.

The application deadline is July 18, 2014.  In order to be considered for the seminar, students must follow the instructions provided via the online form below. In addition to indicating their preferred track, applicants must upload a short personal statement (of no more than 1,000 words) describing their reasons for wanting to take this class and their interest in the topic, together with a resume or CV.

Application Instructions: