Skip to main content

Karen Alter

Lady Board of Managers of the Colombian Exposition Professor of Political Science and Law

B.S.: Cornell University, 1988; Ph.D.: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1996
Curriculum Vitae


Research Interest(s): Global Capitalism and Law; Multilateralism; International Law; International Courts; Law and Politics

Program Area(s): Law and Politics; International Relations; Comparative Politics

Regional Specialization(s): Latin America; Europe; Africa

Subfield Specialties: Comparative Historical Analysis; International Organizations and International Law; International Theory; Law and Politics

Joint Appointment

Legal Studies

Program of African Studies

Northwestern School of Law (by courtesy)


Karen J. Alter is Professor of Political Science and Law at Northwestern University, a permanent visiting professor at the iCourts Center for Excellence, University of Copenhagen Faculty of Law, and the co-director Research Group on Global Capitalism and Law. Alter is well known for her work on the judicialization of international relations.   Alter is author of the award-winning book The New Terrain of International Law: Courts, Politics, Rights (Princeton University Press, 2014); Transplanting International Courts: The Law and Politics of the Andean Tribunal of Justice (Oxford University Press, 2017, with Laurence Helfer); The European Court’s Political Power (Oxford University Press, 2009), Establishing the Supremacy of European Law (Oxford University press, 2001), as well as more than fifty articles and book chapters on the politics of international law, comparative international courts, and international regime complexity.  She is also co-editor of the Oxford Handbook on International Adjudication (Oxford University Press, 2014) and International Court Authority (Oxford University Press, 2018). Alter serves on the editorial boards of the American Journal of International Law and International Studies Review, and she is a general editor of the Journal of International Dispute Settlement and a member of the Council of Foreign Relations. Alter is a former Guggenheim Fellow, winner of the Berlin Prize from the American Academy in Berlin, and the winner of the American Society of International Law’s Certificate of Merit for a Preeminent Contribution to Creative Scholarship. Alter’s new research focuses on the construction of global economic rules regulating trade and money, and on the determinants of politically sustainable capitalism.


Books  Book Cover: The New Terrain of International Law by Karen Alter

Select Publications

Courses taught

Undergraduate level

  • PS 101: The International Politics of Human Rights
  • PS 343: The Politics of International Law
  • PS 347: Ethics and International Affairs
  • PS 395: International Organizations and National Policy
  • PS 398: Honors Thesis Seminar

Graduate level

  • PS 440: International Relations Theory
  • PS 442: International Organization
  • PS 443: International  Law and International Politics

Law School

  • International Courts and Tribunals


  •  Board of Lady Managers of the Columbia Exposition Chair (2018-21)
  • Certificate of Merit for a Preeminent Contribution to Creative Scholarship, American Society of International Law, 2015.
  • Best Book, ILAW Section of the International Studies Association, 2014.
  • Honorable Mention Chadwick F. Alger Prize for the best book published on the subject of international organization and multilateralism. International Studies Association2014.
  • American Academy Berlin Prize, 2012.
  • John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, awarded in the field of law, 2011.
Back to top