Alexander von Humboldt Professorship 2024

Eva Pils

Eva Pils is an expert on international human rights with a focus on China. Her work is interdisciplinary, and she enjoys a worldwide reputation. At FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg she is invited to establish a globally visible centre of excellence in international human rights.

  • Nominating University: FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg
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International public law

When Eva Pils embarked on her research into human rights defence in China more than 20 years ago, people expected the Chinese legal system to undergo a liberal transformation. Her research, on the other hand, focused on the tensions and contradictions within the one-party system. Eva Pils was sceptical about China’s legal reform process, which had already faltered, as well as the assumption that cooperation and exchange with authoritarian institutions would make them more open and accessible.

Today, few outside of China can compete with her highly specialised research profile which demands not only legal expertise but also an in-depth knowledge of Chinese culture and language. She places great emphasis on teaching law as a global subject and encourages her students to read legal systems with a critical eye and understand them in their political and historical context. Her research is not just highly significant for its academic relevance, she also shares her expertise in numerous functions outside of academia, such as with the United Nations’ special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, with parliamentary human rights committees and in the training of diplomats. Thanks to frequent appearances in the media she also influences the public and political discourse and makes important contributions to the ongoing debate on handling transnational human rights violations.

Together with Eva Pils as a Humboldt Professor, FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg plans to expand the field of human rights as a research focus. The aim is to establish the Centre for Human Rights Erlangen-Nürnberg (CHREN) and the School of Law as a top institution in Europe for research and teaching on the long-term challenges of human rights. 

Brief bio

Eva Pils studied law, philosophy and sinology in Heidelberg, London and Beijing. As a doctoral candidate, she participated in a training programme for European lawyers in Beijing which involved studying Chinese law. She completed her doctorate in law at University College London in 2004. Eva Pils subsequently conducted research at New York University, USA, and worked in the legal faculty of The Chinese University of Hong Kong, where she was one of the founders of the Centre for Rights and Justice. In 2014, she relocated to King’s College London as a reader in transnational law, becoming a full professor in 2108. She has been cooperating with colleagues at FAU for several years and, as an associated member, at CHREN.