New perspectives on the law: Decolonial legal critique and practice

Institute – Research & Academia – Decolonial legal criticism

The development of (international) law is closely linked to European colonialism. ECCHR is committed to drawing attention to this history and its effects on contemporary law. In particular, we aim to combine theory and practice.


The anthology Dekoloniale Rechtskritik und Rechtspraxis, published by Nomos Verlag in August 2020, is the first volume to collect fundamental texts on decolonial legal theory. Interdisciplinary theoretical approaches by scholars such as Antony Anghie, Martti Koskenniemi, Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui and Makau Mutua are complied in German for the first time. Practical perspectives of activists and lawyers, such as Colin Gonsalves who won the right to food in India, and Alejandra Ancheita who fights for social and economic rights in Mexico, reflect on and complement the theoretical texts.

The volume aims to critically examine the law, its colonial origins and the question of who has access to justice today – and who does not. It includes current legal debates and activists’ concerns, and questions underlying assumptions. This combination of theoretical approaches and practical perspectives opens new perspectives. It is edited by Karina Theurer, former director of the Institute for Legal Intervention at ECCHR, and Wolfgang Kaleck, ECCHR’s general secretary.


Law as we know it today is based on European philosophy and political theory, and was spread around the world during colonization. Ideas about law and social cohesion that existed outside Europe were violently eradicated. International law that then developed helped legitimize the systematic social and economic exploitation of the colonies. Racist and patriarchal beliefs played a major role in this.

Dekoloniale Rechtskritik und Rechtspraxis gathers diverse voices to speak on these aspects and discuss possible solutions. Anghy and Koskenniemi, for example, deal with fundamental questions of legal theory development, and social and economic inequality. Anne Orford deconstructs a specific interpretation of free trade, while the indigenous activist Tarcila Rivera Zea reports on decolonial struggles for knowledge, law and substantive equality. Lawyers Consalves and Ancheita provide insights into human rights work in response to massive social and economic exploitation in the Global South.


Dekoloniale Rechtstheorie und Rechtskritik
Dekoloniale Rechtstheorie und Rechtskritik

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Documents (1)


  • Nomos Verlag

Glossary (3)


Postcolonial legal criticism

Postcolonial legal criticism tries to uncover and challenge colonial continuities in both national and international law.

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Topics (1)



Since 2018, ECCHR has been providing legal advice to representatives of the Namibian civil society, especially from the Ovaherero and Nama groups, and is working with them to help further communicate their demands – which include the repatriation of human remains to Namibia and the return of artworks stolen during the colonial era – in Germany.

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