Interview - Maria Varaki

11 August, 2021


1. In a few words, can you tell us about yourself and how you found your way to the academic world?

I studied law knowing I was more interested in exploring the emancipatory power and limits of the discipline, than being a barrister. Gradually I realized I was more of an international lawyer; not only studying this field but also embracing a peripatetic scholarly life that enabled freedom of thought and constant self-development. The world of academia offers a unique environment for challenging my intransigence and myths, functioning as a liberating tool of autonomy.

2. What is the main core of your research? Can you give an example or two?

During the last years my research explores the interrelationship between law and ethics with a special focus on human agency and the importance of human judgment. In this context I am questioning the legal and ethical dilemmas arising from the application of artificial intelligence in areas such as migration management and conflict resolution. Additionally, I try to understand the uniqueness of human judgment via an encyclopedic reading of philosophy, emotions, law and ethics.

3. Why choose this area over all others? Did your personal or professional background lead you to it? Oh yes, being an academic nomad who studied different subfields of international law, I felt frustration with the limits of a purist rule-oriented answer to major global justice dilemmas. Contrary to that, I gradually realized how different decisions by different individuals when they exercise their judgment can trigger immense consequences. This is why I got so fascinated with the exercise of human judgment and its capabilities. As Sophocles said in Antigone “Nothing more wonderful and frightening than the man’’….

4. Do you think that in this cyber age these issues are even more complex compared to other times in history? If so – in what ways? 

No one can seriously doubt that our cyber era has exacerbated debates about the limits of human nature and the emancipatory strengthening of new technologies. Still, the question of judgment and authority remains in the hard core of our legal and ethical dilemmas while we witness the speed of change in our daily lives. In this regard, I consider our age as an opportunity for a fundamental self-reflection about the future of human kind, moving beyond the predominant dystopic sensibility into a vision of a decent world.

5. What is the next phase in your professional life? 

Well most likely I ‘ll sound naïve to most of your readers, but I‘m actually working on my idea about the Innocence of International Law; how can we ‘rehabilitate’ this part of International Law that can inspire imaginative initiatives and thus respond both to cynicism and unrealistic utopias. It is a challenging exercise that once more focuses on human agency and individual acts of moderation and kindness that operate in a cathartic way.

6. What is your message to the public?

I think this is the most intriguing question I was ever asked until now. I would say in a very cautious way, that we should not lose our hope about the human race. The human being (anthopos) is capable both of the worst and the best. This is the essence of the tragicity of human nature. This acknowledgment should guide our thoughts while addressing contemporary challenges of humankind.