Reseach Centre

JSW Law encourages the exploration of society through interdisciplinary discourse and fact finding. The Research Centre provides a forum for the promotion of independent research, critical academic dialogue, and support to scholars at various stages of their careers. Guided by an interdisciplinary platform devoted to the study of Gross National Happiness (GNH), the Law and Development, the Research Centre is a place for both theoretically oriented and practically relevant research. Most importantly, it brings together scholars, practitioners, JSW Law faculty, and students to drive a dynamic discourse at the law school and beyond. 

Inward Leaning Approach

The Research Centre serves as a resource and guide for JSW Law faculty and students to ask challenging questions and to ground their work with evidence-based research. Through the adoption of an interdisciplinary approach, the Centre strives to support and develop projects from a variety of disciplines and practices with the intention to enhance a culture of research and academic discourse at JSW Law and throughout Bhutan.

In addition, the Research Center hosts a variety of events and endeavors to showcase thoughtful academics and practitioners as guest speakers.

Outward Facing Approach

In addition to its support for projects within JSW Law’s academic community, the Research Centre also aims to promote a core scholarly agenda, namely a critical exploration of the relationship between development and the law. In line with this mandate, the Research Centre will host fellows from Bhutan and abroad who are eager to contribute to Bhutan’s on-going discussions about the nature of development, and the role of justice actors in the promotion of a more just, equitable, and sustainable society. The Research Centre serves as a conduit for a conference series on this topic and actively conducts longer-term research projects in furtherance of this agenda.

Reseach Projects

In addition to supporting scholarly research generally, the Research Centre is supporting a number of ongoing, long-term research projects involving JSW Law faculty and staff.

Legal Needs Assessment

JSW Law launched a major interdisciplinary and mixed-methods research project in late October of 2018. This project actively engages with individuals across each of Bhutan’s twenty districts. The study focuses not only on traditional notions of “vulnerability,” but also focuses heavily on sources of resilience. The LNA will capture the strategies, both legal and otherwise, that communities and individuals across Bhutan have found to be effective in helping them address their social vulnerabilities. Designed by academics with extensive backgrounds in law, conflict resolution, human security and vast prior research expertise, this project is the first of its kind in Bhutan.

Through the use of a range of methodologies, the LNA intends to capture contemporary Bhutanese perceptions and definitions of justice, broadly defined. Researchers will document how individuals and communities make use of either the traditional or more formal dispute resolution mechanisms. The study will also explore how Bhutan’s historically unique recent history has influenced understandings of “justice,” and how these definitions may still be shifting as a result of the country’s push towards modernization and development. Of particular interest will be the impact of Bhutan’s now almost four decades-old official embrace of an “alternative’ and more holistic development philosophy, and whether that has had any impact on how individuals and communities in Bhutan understand their rights and responsibilities as Bhutanese citizens.

The LNA is designed and conducted by JSW Law faculty and researchers. Those researchers have been working closely with partners at the University of Vienna (Austria) and the Fletcher School at Tufts University (USA) to refine their methodology and ensure that the study’s results are relevant not just in Bhutan, but also more globally.

The initial study, which is inspired by a mixed-methods, ethnographic methodology, will subsequently feed into a second stage of the project, which will build on existing rule of law indicators (for example those associated with the UN Sustainable Development Goals relating to the Justice Sector) to develop a robust and empirically validated set of justice, fairness, and social equity. This set of indicators, once finalized, will eventually become a long-term evaluation tool that JSW Law’s Research Centre plans to administer periodically – in line with Bhutan’s development planning cycle – to measure the country’s progress with regard to efforts to strengthen its Justice Sector. In this way, JSW Law will play and essential role informing relevant Bhutanese stakeholders as to ongoing Justice Sector development priorities, as well as the evolution of legal needs across the country.

The LNA is generously funded by the Ford Foundation and the Royal Government of Bhutan.

For further enquiries or questions regarding the Legal Needs Assessment, please contact Rinchen Dema at

Research Faculty and Staff

Rinchen Dema 


Rinchen Dema joined JSW Law in 2017 as a Faculty Secretary. She also serves as the Law Clinics senior legal assistant. She received her Bachelors of Arts in Dzongkha and English from Sherubtse College, in Kanglung, in 2014. Prior to joining JSW Law, she served as a teacher and Library In-Charge at Dr. Tobgyel School and served as an Assistant Research Officer in the National Assembly of Bhutan. Rinchen Dema is from Rangthangling in Tsirang Dzongkhang and currently lives in Thimphu.

Since 2018, Rinchen Dema has also been serving as the Research Officer for << JSW Law’s Legal Needs Assessment >> – a 20 Dzongkhag study employing an ethnographically-inspired methodology to assess the contours of “justice” in Bhutan.


The Research Centre and JSW Law host a number of events related to the research mission of the law school.  These include:

  • Upcoming Events 
  • Visiting Scholar Lecture Series 
  • Event Archive 
  • Conferences 

Visiting Scholar Lecture Series

The Visiting Scholar Lecture Series is one of several initiatives that intend to inspire and cultivate a keen research culture within JSW Law. This series invites visiting scholars and experts to engage with the JSW Law community through presentations on personal research endeavors.

Event Archive

Recent lectures and other events hosted by the Research Centre and JSW Law include:


Crime and Punishment in Pre-Buddhist Tibet

Professor Michaela Windischgraetz, University of Vienna, Austria

February 27, 2019

Revitalizing Macaulay’s Indian Penal Code

Professor Stanley Yeo, National University of Singapore

May 13, 2019                             

The Paris Climate Agreement and Bederman’s Six Myths about International Law and Practice

Dr. Markus Puder, Loyola University New Orleans College of Law, USA

May 30, 2019

What is Involved in an International Law Practice? & How to Put Together an International Deal?

Paul Deemer, Vinson & Elkins International Law Firm (Retired Partner in Residence)

August 27 & 28, 2019


Doing Research: Understanding Oral Histories in Bhutan

Professor Michaela Windischgraetz, University of Vienna, Austria

February 20, 2018

The Chinese Belt-and-Road Initiative and its Influence on Neighboring Countries: The Case of Thailand

Professor Wolfram Schaffar, University of Vienna, Austria

March 7, 2018

The Criminal Tribes of India: Lessons for Lawyers in the Global South

Professor Mark Brown, The University of Sheffield School of Law, UK

March 27, 2018

Liberty Versus Security? A Human Rights Perspective in Times of Terror

Professor Christina Binder, Universität der Bundeswehr München, Germany

March 29, 2018

Reconciliation, Cultural Competence, and the Ethical Lawyer

Dr. Pooja Parmar, University of Victoria, Canada

August 28, 2018

Monastic Education in Bhutan: Tradition and Transformations in the 21st Century

Professor Dorji Gyeltshen, JSW School of Law, Bhutan

October 12, 2018

Plurality Decisions and Precedent: Comparative American/Bhutanese Questions on Supreme Court Split Decisions

Professor Jesse Weins, Arizona State University, USA

October 23, 2018


The JSW Law Conference Series enables JSW Law to explore and engage with key institutions, concepts, and scholars, as well as to highlight prominent research themes at JSW Law.

CAPI Conference

[Kristy to add text]

Gross National Happiness and the Law Conference

(July 17 & 18, 2018 – Thimphu)

Commemorating the ten-year anniversary of Bhutan’s Constitution, JSW Law’s inaugural conference convened a dynamic group of Bhutanese legal experts, governance actors, members of the monastic body, GNH researchers, and a select number of international scholars to discuss what can be learned from a GNH society and its relationship with the law; and how Bhutan’s legal practitioners can clarify and achieve GNH values. The conference explored this topic through four themes:

(1) Defining Bhutanese customary legal traditions;
(2) Bhutanese experiences with GNH and the law;

(3) Buddhist lessons for the legal profession;
(4) Global experiences with “alternative” development concepts and the law.

Conference proceedings are currently in production and forthcoming. Contact the Research Centre for further details.


JSW Law Publishing Series

The JSW Law Publishing Series is a publishing brand for JSW Law-affiliated research. The series is designed as an opportunity for printing and producing quality, branded works to highlight original research and make it accessible through the JSW Law networks.

The Black Slate Edict of Punakha Dzong: A Legal Code attributed to Zhabs-drung Ngag-dbang rnam-rgyal, the founder of Bhutan

By Michaela Windischgraetz and Rinzin Wangdi

The JSW Law Publishing Series’ inaugural publication was released in July of 2019. This work is the first English translation of the Kathrim, a set of laws engraved on three black slate tablets erected outside the Punakha Dzong and attributed to Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyal, the founding father credited for unifying modern-day Bhutan. Based on the concept of happiness, the legal code served as the foundation for principles and laws of Bhutanese society. Add link to SSRN if Michaela agrees to post – Kristy will ask.

The Bhutan Law Network Research Paper Series (SSRN)

The Bhutan Law Network at JSW Law is a research paper series within the Social Science Research Network’s (SSRN) Legal Network. Using this forum, JSW Law aims to build a publicly accessible repository for a wide range of works oriented to Bhutan and the law. This research paper series aims to showcase research from JSW Law faculty, members of Bhutan’s law community, and JSW Law’s international colleagues. The Bhutan Law Network at JSW Law is an excellent opportunity for Bhutan’s Justice Sector partners, and other interested individuals, to share their research and publications with a wider audience and to stay up-to-date on new and innovative research related to Bhutan and the law. Add link here

JSW Law welcomes a variety of submissions, please contact the Bhutan Law Network editor at with any inquiries.


The Research Centre aims to establish a small number of fellowships for mid to senior level professionals per year. The Post-Graduate Fellowship is designed to allow recent JSW Law graduates to engage in a fully funded one-year research position to pursue an in-depth research project with full-access to JSW Law resources and research support. Calls for fellowship applications will be announced online.

JSW Law Judicial Fellow

The Judicial Fellowship is designed in furtherance of JSW Law’s commitment to collaborate with Bhutan’s Judiciary through engaging a culture of research underpinning Bhutan’s Justice Sector. With the support and cooperation of the Judiciary, eligible fellows will apply and be selected based on the merit and vision of their research proposal. Research agendas should be rigorous, and can be either theoretically or practically oriented.

Professional Fellowship

This opportunity is designed for mid to senior level Bhutanese professionals. The Professional Fellowship is open to all applicants proposing an innovative research project in line with the Research Centre’s overarching platform of GNH, the law, and development. Depending upon the capacity of the RC to house and support individual fellows, it is proposed that the Professional Fellowship be open to one fellow for the full academic year, or two fellows – each with a six-month term.

Researcher in Residence Programme

This programme encourages active engagement between JSW Law and scholars from institutions outside of Bhutan. Interested individuals apply with a research proposal that is in line with the Research Centre’s overarching platform of GNH, the law, and development. The annual number of visiting scholars will not exceed more than two per academic year, with the duration based on need and RC capacity.

JSW Law Post-Graduate Fellowship

This is a one-year fellowship, at JSW Law, for recent JSW Law graduates (two fellows per year). The fellowship is designed to cultivate the research skills of recent JSW Law graduates through deepening their knowledge, skills, and ability to apply rigorous research strategies that will lead to the production of high-quality results. Applicants apply for this position during the fifth year of their legal studies. Expected outputs vary based on the fellows’ individual proposals and research processes.