The question of whether decolonisation stalled in the Global South has been addressed in some form for as long as the concept of decolonisation has been present in our world. As many educational institutions across the world, and especially in the Global North, begin to include ‘decolonising’ in their knowledge transmission agendas, connecting this question with the past, present and future of all aspects of the colonial project has never been more important. This short essay argues firstly that the question itself relies on certain presumptions that should be revisited. Secondly, the essay argues that the answer itself is complex and depends on where our gaze primarily lies – state or people.
A decolonised international law module, and the law curriculum in general, should be able to imagine the world beyond a simplistic notion of ‘the law says so’
The three issues that I discussed here apropos teaching and researching international law are part of much bigger problems in Asia and Africa: statehood, sovereignty, resource management, knowledge production, to name a few. I believe, more specific examples of how these persistent problems shape (and also fail to shape) teaching and researching international law in these regions will emerge in course of this symposium.
If we are to take decolonization of international legal studies seriously, the production of literature, the history of International Law and especially methods of analysis must be destabilized
It is high time that pedagogical, methodological, ethical, and sociological challenges of this nature are discussed and addressed if IL is to be assessed for what it is without plummeting into the depths of myriad situated perspectives, colonialism, linguistic barriers, paucity of resources, and sheer divisions within the academic world.
There are two basic problems that may resonate with those who are engaged in teaching and researching international law in developing countries: first, motivating students, and second, seamlessly accessing the requisite resources for teaching and research. This essay presents and outlines challenges and proposes some solutions to address them. This is not to say that these are the only constraints they face, rather this choice is driven by the length of this essay.
So far, we have found that an uncritical Western perspective is favored in the teaching of international law in the region. In many cases, international law is generally presented as a single and objective law that must be applied uniformly in any part of the world and, therefore, leaving no place for regional contextualization or for questioning its premises. Likewise, it is widely preferred to teach it using a bibliography originated in the Global North, despite the substantive contributions of Latin American scholars in International Law and in the Humanities and Social Sciences. These contributions have been made invisible by the colonial past and globalization processes based on asymmetrical power-knowledge relationships.
There is a need to strip the teaching of PIL of its Eurocentric cognitive and civilisational conceits. ‘There is something profoundly wrong when syllabi designed to meet the ends of colonialism continue well into the [postcolonial] era’.
The NUS Centre for International Law recently released its report on ‘Teaching and Researching International Law in Asia’ (TRILA) on the back of its inaugural conference in 2018. The TRILA Report presents a comprehensive empirical survey of the state of international law teaching and research in Asia. While the Report is focused on Asia, it is intended to contribute to the growing global discussion on teaching and researching international law around the world.
While procedural reforms are important, substantive reform should be foregrounded. If substantive reforms cannot take place then African states should exit the ISDS scene.