Law and Postcolonial Theory

Key information

Start date
End date
Term 2
Module code
FHEQ Level
School of Law, Gender and Media

Module overview

In this module, we will cover some of the key texts that have shaped the field of post-colonial legal theory. Beginning with the Subaltern Studies School, we will move through the turn to post-structuralist thought and the emergence of post-colonial theory. The texts chosen have shaped the field of post-colonial theory and are situated within a diverse range of disciplines, including history, literature, philosophy, cultural studies and law.

For students interested in doing research in the areas of human rights, international law, indigenous rights, and legal theory from critical perspectives, an understanding of the texts covered in this module will be indispensable.

The texts chosen represent a wide range of different levels of theorisation and complexity and cover key themes in the field, including race, gender, sexuality, colonial history, modernity, governmentality, and more. Students will engage in a close reading of these texts and will share their insights and questions through oral presentations.

Objectives and learning outcomes

  • To introduce students to the field of post-colonial theory
  • 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
  • To inculcate analytical and research skills
  • To inculcate the ability to read texts closely and critically
  • 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 module, students will be able to:

  • Explain the development of the field and the influence of subaltern studies on post-colonial theory
  • Demonstrate a solid grasp over the theoretical trajectories of post-colonial theory and their influence on the development of post-colonial legal theory
  • Examine contemporary theoretical debates in the field of post-colonial legal theory and law and colonialism with an understanding of their evolution and parameters
  • 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


  • Weekly 2-hour seminar

Method of assessment

  • Coursework: 100% (5000 words)

Not all coursework can be resubmitted for this module.

Suggested reading

This is an indicative list and may vary from year to year:

  • Jacques Derrida, “The Mystical Foundations of Authority” in Acts of Religion ed Gil Anidjar (2001)
  • Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincialising Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference (2000) chapter 1-4
  • 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)
  • Achilles Mbembe, On the Postcolony (2001)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules.