Institute - Research & Academia - (Post-)Colonialism

Decolonial legal theory and practice

Koloniales Erbe/Colonial Repercussions © Akademie der Künste
Koloniales Erbe/Colonial Repercussions © Akademie der Künste

Institute - Research & Academia - (Post-)Colonialism

Decolonial legal theory and practice

The development of international law is closely interwoven with colonialization and imperialism. Colonial violence was frequently covered up, and injustices were incorporated into a legal system. Imperial continuities persist in today's international law, as well as in international economic and trade structures.

ECCHR works on de- and post-colonial criticism of the law to point out and overcome colonial structures in current international law: What does this mean for the way we approach current law? Does international law today still contribute to exploitation, violence, and social, political as well as cultural exclusion? How could the law be used to counter (post-)colonial injustices?


The first symposium of the "Koloniales Erbe/Colonial Repercussions" event series, organized by ECCHR in collaboration with Akademie der Künste in January 2018 in Berlin, opened a first public space for discourse on this project. It traced how violence has been rendered invisible, and injustice became law.

Legal experts from all over the world not only discussed the colonial crimes of the European states and the question of reparations but also structures of colonial power relations, which continue to impact science, art and society today.


The program included talks and panels with Antony Anghie, Christian Bommarius, Williams Chima, Luis Eslava, Kranti LC, Gesine Krüger, Christophe Marchand, Mnyaka Sururu Mboro, Ester Muinjangue, Makau Mutua, Obiora Chinedu Okafor, Bernadus Swartbooi, Celine Tan, Liesbeth Zegveld and others.

Artistic interventions like the jazz performance by Congolese author and Junge Akademie fellow Fiston Mwanza Mujila, the video works "O Sacudimento da Casa de Torre" (2015) by Brazilian artist Ayrson Heráclito and "Im Schiffbruch nicht schwimmen können" (2011) by Akademie member Marcel Odenbach reflected on the global ramifications of decolonialization in today's society.

Find more information on the other events of the series "Koloniales Erbe/Colonial Repercussions" here.

Related Projects


Postcolonial legal criticism tries to uncover and challenge colonial continuities in both national and international law.
According to the principle of intertemporality, a legal question has to be assessed on the basis of the laws in effect at the relevant time. This is aimed at ensuring legal certainty and is thus in many cases desirable. However, the application of this principle can sometimes mean, for example, that crimes committed during the colonization of Africa and South America are assessed not in line with today's legal standards but rather in accordance with the racist and discriminating laws of the colonizing powers.