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School of Law

Law and Postcolonial Theory

Course Code:
Unit value:
Taught in:
Term 1

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

1). To introduce students to the field of post-colonial theory;
2). To explain how post-colonial theory has influenced and has been taken up by legal theorists, creating an emerging discipline of post-colonial legal theory;
3). To inculcate analytical and research skills;
4). To inculcate the ability to read texts closely and critically;
5). To encourage reflection on the ways in which history has been conceptualised by post-colonial theorists, and the importance of these approaches for the study of law and colonialism

On Completion of the course, students will be able to:
1) Explain the development of the field, and the influence of subaltern studies on post-colonial theory;
2) Demonstrate a solid grasp over the theoretical trajectories of post-colonial theory, and their influence on the development post-colonial legal theory;
3) Examine contemporary theoretical debates in the field of post-colonial legal theory, and law and colonialism, with an understanding of their evolution and parameters;
4) Illustrate their understanding of post-colonial theory by considering how the interpretation of specific historical events can contribute to the development of critical legal scholarship and legal history.

Scope and syllabus

This course fits into the LLM and MA programmes by offering an investigation into the theories and key texts that inform several other courses currently being offered, such as Indigenous Land Rights; Colonialism, Empire and International Law; Law and Society in South Asia; and others. This course does not overlap but provides part of the groundwork that will complement these courses.

Method of assessment

Assessment weighting: 90% coursework (two 1,000 word essay and one 5,000 word essay). Resubmission of coursework regulations apply. 10% Oral presentation, cannot be resubmitted.

Suggested reading

This is an indicative list and may vary from year to year:
Antony Anghie, Imperialism, Sovereignty and the Making of International Law (2007),
Amar Bhatia, “The South of the North: Building on Critical Approaches to International Law with Lessons from the Fourth World” (2012) 14 Oregon Review of International Law,
Jacques Derrida, “The Mystical Foundations of Authority” in Acts of Religion ed Gil Anidjar (2001)
Walter Benjamin, “Critique of Violence” in Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings (1995)
Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincialising Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference (2000) chapter 1-4
Amit Chaudhuri, “In the Waiting Room of History” in London Review of Books Vol. 26 June 2004
Jean and John Comaroff, Law and Disorder in the Postcolony (2006)
Peter Fitzpatrick, The Mythology of Modern Law (1992), selected chapters
Michel  Foucault, Essential Works of Foucault 1954-1984 (1994)
James Gaathi, “TWAIL: A Brief History of Its Origins, Its Decentralized Network, and a Tentative Bibliography” 3(1) Trade, Law and Development 26 (2011)
Piyal Haldar Law, Orientalism and Postcolonialism: Jurisdiction of the Lotus Eaters (2007)–
Nasser Hussain, The Jurisprudence of Emergency: Colonialism and the Rule of Law (2003)
Mahmood Mamdani, Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and The Legacy of Late Colonialism (1996)
Achilles Mbembe, On the Postcolony (2001)
Edward Said, Freud And the Non-European (2004)
Edward Said Orientalism (1978)
Gayatri Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak?” In Other Worlds: Essays in Cultural Politics (1985)
Gayatri Spivak,  A Critique of Post-Colonial Reason: Toward A History of the Vanishing Present (London: Harvard University Press, 1999), chapter 3
Ann Laura Stoler Imperial Leather: Race, Gender and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest (London: Routledge, 1995)