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Vasuki Nesiah

Professor of Practice
(212) 998-9151
708 - 1 Wash Pl

B.A., Philosophy, Cornell University, 1990
J.D., philosophy and social theory of the law, Harvard Law School, 1993
S.J.D., International law, Harvard Law School, 2000

Vasuki Nesiah teaches human rights, legal and social theory at NYU Gallatin where she is also faculty director of the Gallatin Global Fellowship in Human Rights. She has published on the history and politics of human rights, humanitarianism, international criminal law, reparations, global feminisms, and decolonization. Nesiah was awarded the Gallatin Distinguished Teacher Award in 2021 and the NYU Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Faculty Award in 2020. Her current book projects include International Conflict Feminism (forthcoming from University of Pennsvlania Press) and Reading the Ruins: Colonialism, Slavery, and International Law.


A founding member of Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL), she is co-editing TWAIL: A Handbook with Anthony Anghie, Bhupinder Chimni, Michael Fakhri, and Karin Mickelson (forthcoming from Elgar). A selection of recent publications include: "A Double Take on Debt: Reparations Claims and Regimes of Visibility in a Politics of Refusal" forthcoming this month in the Osgoode Hall Law Journal (2022), "Feminist Approaches to International Law" with Karen Engle and Diane Otto in Jeffrey L Dunoff and Mark A Pollack, eds., International Legal Theory: Foundations and Frontiers, (Cambridge University Press 2022); "A Mad and Melancholy Record": The Crisis of International Law Histories, Notre Dame Journal of International & Comparative Law, Volume 11, Issue 2 (2021); "The Law of Humanity has a Canon: Translating Racialized World Order into 'Colorblind' Law", PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review, (November 2020), "Freedom at Sea", London Review of International Law, (July 2019) and the co-edited volume, A Global History of Bandung and Critical Traditions in International Law (Cambridge 2017).


Nesiah also continues as core faculty in Harvard Law School's Institute for Global Law and Policy (IGLP); In this capacity she has taught for over ten years in the IGLP summer and winter workshops in Cambridge, Doha, Cape Town, Madrid, Bangkok, and Geneva. She has also taught in different capacities at Brown University, Columbia University's School of Public and International Affairs, and the University of Melbourne Law School. In addition to being an active member of the editorial collective of the journal Humanity, she is also on the international advisory editorial committees of several journals, including Feminist Legal Studies, the London Review of International Law, Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, the Third World Approaches to International Law Review (TWAILR) and the Jindal Law and Humanities Review. Before returning to full-time academia, Nesiah spent several years as a human rights lawyer working on law and policy issues in the field of post-conflict justice at the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ). She founded and headed ICTJ's Gender Program and served as Senior Associate leading ICTJ's work in a number of countries, including South Africa, India, Ghana, Nepal, and the Philippines. She earned her BA at Cornell University, and her JD and SJD at Harvard Law School. She is originally from Sri Lanka.

Awards & Honors


Vasuki Nesiah Appointed to the Jacob K. Javits Visiting Professorship at NYU

Vasuki Nesiah was appointed to the Jacob K. Javits Visiting Professorship at NYU for the Spring 2022 semester. Nesiah teaches human rights and legal and social theory at Gallatin and is faculty director of the Gallatin Global Fellowship in Human Rights.


Nesiah Appointed Jacob K. Javits Visiting Professor

For the Spring 2022 semester, legal scholar and Gallatin faculty member Vasuki Nesiah has been appointed to the Jacob K. Javits Visiting Professorship at NYU. Established in 2008 with generous support from The Marian B. and Jacob K. Javits Foundation, the Professorship honors the memory of the four-term US Republican Senator from New York, an alumnus of the NYU School of Law. Recipients are selected on the basis of their work with issues close to the late Senator’s interests, which include health, civil rights, labor, foreign policy, disability rights, education, fairness in employment, and economic security for working Americans. Nesiah teaches human rights and legal and social theory at Gallatin and is faculty director of the Gallatin Global Fellowship in Human Rights. As a part of her Professorship, Nesiah will deliver the Jacob K. Javits Visiting Professorship Lecture during the Spring semester.

Previous awardees include Howard Gardner, Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education, Harvard University Graduate School of Education (Steinhardt School); David Oshinsky, Professor of History, FAS, and Medicine, School of Medicine; Pete Hamill, Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at NYU, FAS; Jorge Castañeda, NYU Global Distinguished Professor of Politics and Latin American and Caribbean Studies, FAS; Beth Noveck, Professor of Technology, Culture, and Society, Tandon School of Engineering; Anthony Bertelli, Professor of the Politics of Public Policy, Wagner School of Public Service; and Selçuk Şirin, Associate Professor of Applied Psychology, Steinhardt School.


Nesiah Recieves MLK Jr. Award

Vasuki Nesiah was awarded a 2020 New York University Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Faculty Award, an award that recognizes outstanding NYU faculty who exemplify the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. through teaching excellence, leadership, social justice activism, and community building.

Edited Volumes


Global History, and International Law: Critical Pasts and Pending Futures

Bandung, Global History, and International Law: Critical Pasts and Pending Futures, edited by Vasuki Nesiah, Luis Eslava, and Michael Fakhri was published by Cambridge University Press.

Teaching and Research Interests

international legal studies; human rights and humanitarianism; politics of memory and transitional justice; law  culture and society; law and politics of violence; critical social theory; colonialism and postcolonial modernities; feminisms; globalization; development policy; jurisprudence of identity; South Asia 

Recent News


In December 2017, Professor Vasuki Nesiah gave the keynote lecture at the 2017 Conference of the Law, Literature and Humanities Association of Australasia: Dissents and Disposition, Melbourne, Australia and the keynote lecture for the 2017 Legal Sciences Conference of Finland in Turku, Finland, in August 2017.

In January 2017, Professor Vasuki Nesiah collaborated with Anthony Anghie of National University of Singapore, convening a Workshop on Third World Approaches to International Law, University of Colombo Law Faculty, in Colombo, Sri Lanka.


Her co-edited volume, Bandung, Global History and International Law was published by Cambridge University Press in 2017.

Other recent publications include the short article:

“Human Shields/Human Crosshairs: Colonial Legacies and Contemporary Wars," for American Journal of International Law Unbound, Volume 110 (2017).

and the following book chapters:

“The Politics of Humanitarian Morality: Reflections on ‘The Hazards of Rescue’” in Human Rights: Moral or Political?, edited by Adam Etinson (Oxford University Press, 2018)

"Indebted: The Cruel Optimism of Leaning-in to Empowerment” in Governance Feminisms, edited by Janet Halley et al (University of Minnesota Press, 2018)

“The Escher Human Rights Elevator: Technologies of the Local” in Sally Merry and Tine Destrooper eds., Human Rights Transformation in an Unequal World, edited by Sally Merry and Tine Destrooper (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018)

“Gender and Forms of Conflict: The Moral Hazards of Dating the Security Council” in Oxford Handbook on Gender and Conflict, edited by Fionnuala Ni Aolain, Naomi Cahn, Nahla Valji and Dina Haynes (Oxford University Press, 2017)

“‘Saviors, Victims and Savages on the Post-Conflict Circuit: The Field of Transitional Justice” in Transitional Justice in Sri Lanka, edited by Bhavani Fonseka (Center for Policy Alternatives, 2017)


Vasuki Nesiah