Staff profile - John Morss

Dr John Morss

Position: Senior Lecturer
role description
Faculty or Division: Faculty of Business and Law
Department: BL Law
Campus: Melbourne Burwood Campus
Phone: +61 3 924 46236 +61 3 924 46236



John R Morss was born in London and trained in Psychology at Sheffield and Edinburgh Universities in the UK and in Law at the University of Otago NZ. He completed his professional training for admission to practise Law in Dunedin NZ in 2003.

John has published extensively in his two disciplines, having published in total 6 books (3 sole-authored), over 30 refereed journal articles and 10 book chapters with more forthcoming. In Law his research focus is on conceptual issues in Public International Law, on which he brings to bear critical perspectives from the social sciences and humanities.

Before his appointment to the Deakin Law School John was for 13 years a Lecturer/Senior Lecturer in Education at the University of Otago NZ. He is familiar with pedagogical issues and principles as they relate to the tertiary sector.

John was employed on a continuing basis as a Lecturer/Senior Lecturer at the University of Ulster, UK (1980-86) and at the University of Otago, New Zealand (1986-99).

He held positions of responsibility in all the long term posts, most recently Associate Head of School (Research) at Deakin Law School (2004—7; 2007—9; 2009—12) and at various times Acting Head of School (including a period of 4.5 months in 2007).

John has experience of three other universities on a short-term and research-focused basis (Cambridge; Charles Sturt; Victoria). He spent three periods as a visiting researcher at Cambridge University (12 months in 1993; 2 months in 2006; 6 months in 2008). During the year-long visit in 1993 to the Social and Political Studies Faculty, he taught a lecture series and conducted ‘supervisions’ and tutorials (individual and small group teaching respectively) as well as being second marker in a first year examination for Social Psychology.

John was a Visiting Fellow at the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law, University of Cambridge and By-Fellow, Churchill College, University of Cambridge (July—Dec 2008). He was Visiting Fellow in the Law Department, European University Institute, Florence, for one month in 2010; and Visiting Researcher, Sheffield Centre for International and European Law, Sheffield University Law School, Nov-Dec 2012.


  • Bachelor of Science, University of Sheffield, 1975
  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of Edinburgh, 1980
  • Bachelor of Law(s), University of Otago, 2002

Career highlights

Visiting Researcher, Sheffield Centre for International and European Law, Sheffield University Law School, Nov-Dec 2012

Visiting Fellowship, Law Department, European University Institute, Florence, Italy (Nov – Dec 2010)

Visiting Fellowship, Lauterpacht Centre for International Law, Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge: 1st July – 31st December 2008

By-Fellowship, Churchill College, University of Cambridge: 1st July – 31st December 2008

Visiting Researcher, Institute for International Law, Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Munich, October 2009

Joshua Williams Memorial Essay Prize, Otago District Law Society, 2002

Paul Wallis Memorial Prize for Jurisprudence (shared), Otago Law School, 2001


Member, American Society for International Law (Member, Executive Committee, Legal Theory Interest Group)

Member, European Society for International Law

Fellow, Society of Advanced Legal Studies

Member, Law Institute of Victoria

LinkedIn profile


Teaching Interests

International Law


Subjects and units currently teaching

Units taught      


  • 2014 T1 MLL110 Legal Principles and Skills [Waterfront campus]
  • 2013 T2  MLL335 Legal Practice and Ethics
  • 2013 T1  MLP301 Sentencing Law and Practice [unit chair] [Waurn Ponds]
  • 2012 T2  MLL377 International Law [unit chair]
  • 2012 T1  MLM785 International Law [unit chair]
  • 2011 T2  MLL377  [unit chair]; MLM720 [non-teaching unit chair]
  • 2011 T1  MLM785 [unit chair]
  • 2010 T2  [MLMD785 International Law: prepared new materials but program cancelled]
  • 2010 T1  MLM785 [unit chair]
  • 2009 T1 MLM785 [unit chair]; MLL 370 Internet Law [unit chair]; MLM770 Internet Law [unit chair]
  • 2008 T1  MLM785 [unit chair]; MLL327 Property Law [40%]
  • 2007 S1  MLM785 [unit chair] 
  • 2006 Summer MLL377 [unit chair]
  • 2006 S1 MLM785 [unit chair]


I continue to teach successfully at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, and to supervise HDR students (currently 3 as principal supervisor, of whom 2 are PhD). I have achieved good to excellent teaching [‘SETU’] evaluations.
MLL377 International Law (an elective) is one of my areas of research expertise and a unit for which I have had responsibility on four occasions (2004, 2006, 2011, 2012). In 2012 I achieved excellent SETU evaluations (recognised as such by the Acting DVC [Academic]).
I taught at postgraduate level MLM785 International Law from 2006—12.  In this unit, I implemented a scheme for internal assessment comprising a research essay on a topic chosen by each student (with guidance), assessed in three stages (proposal, draft, final) with extensive feedback and marks at each stage. I have twice received university recognition for teaching evaluations for this unit.

Knowledge areas

Public International Law



Research interests

Conceptual issues in Public International Law



10 Career-Best Publications


The impact of my research is indicated by my Google Scholar Citations: as of 9 July 2014, Total Citations = 908; h = 13; i10 = 16


Morss, J.R. (2013) International Law as the Law of Collectives: Toward a Law of People. Ashgate.

“International Law as the Law of Collectives addresses one of the most important questions facing the world today: what are the proper boundaries between persons, peoples, and global justice?”
Professor Mortimer Sellers, University of Baltimore, USA

"This book merits widespread and attentive reading.”
Professor Fleur Johns, University of NSW


Morss J. R. (2009) The Legal Relations of Collectives: Belated Insights from Hohfeld. 22/2 Leiden Journal of International Law 289-305
One of Europe’s premier journals in International Law.  
Morss J. R.  (2008) Can Custom be Incorporated in Law? On the Place of the Empirical in the Identification of Norms. 53 The American Journal of Jurisprudence 85-99
One of the premier US journals in Natural Law. A response was published by M. Kramer, AJJ (2008) 53:1 101-3
Morss J.R. (2004) Heteronomy as the Challenge to Nation: A Critique of Collective and of Individual Rights. 8 Law, Text, Culture 167-190      

Morss J.R. (2003a) Saving Human Rights from its Friends: A Critique of the Imaginary Justice of Costas Douzinas. 27 Melbourne University Law Review 889-904    
Cited by Hon Michael Kirby, Justice of the High Court of Australia, in (2004) ‘Chief Justice Nicholson, Australian Family Law and International Human Rights’ Melbourne Journal of International Law 5 fn13

Morss J.R. (2003b) Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Fish? Rethinking What the Law Wishes to Have. 27 Melbourne University Law Review 199-216    
Morss, J.R. (1996). Growing Critical: Alternatives to developmental psychology, London: Routledge.
Continuously cited eg G. Richards (2002) Putting Psychology in its Place: A Critical Historical Overview (2nd ed) (Routledge); Woodhead and Faulkner (2008) in Christensen and James (eds) Research with Children (Falmer); E. Burman, Deconstructing Developmental Psychology 2nd 2008 (Routledge)

Morss, J.R. (1992). Making Waves: Deconstruction and developmental psychology. Theory and Psychology, 2, 445—465.
Cited eg B. Bradley, Psychology and Experience (CUP) 2005

Morss, J.R. (1990). The Biologising of Childhood: Developmental psychology and the Darwinian myth, Hove, UK: Erlbaum.
Continuously cited eg G. Richards (2002) Putting Psychology in its Place: A Critical Historical Overview (2nd ed) (Routledge); E. Burman Deconstructing Developmental Psychology 2nd 2008 (Routledge); Bradley B, Psychology and Experience (CUP) 2005; 2008 K. and M. Gergen, ‘Social Construction and Psychological Inquiry,’ in Holstein and Gubrium (eds), Handbook of Constructionist Research

Morss, J.R. (1985). Early Cognitive Development: Difference or delay? In D. Lane and B. Stratford (eds) Current Approaches to Down’s Syndrome, London: Holt, Rinehart, Winston.
[PhD research] continues to be cited:  J.G. Wishart (2007) ‘Socio-cognitive understanding: a strength or weakness in Down's syndrome?’ Journal of Intellectual Disability Research


Link to publications

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