(Post)colonial injustice and legal interventions

Institute – Cooperation Academy of Fine Arts – (Post)Colonialism

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 postcolonial 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.


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

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Postcolonial legal criticism

The academic field of postcolonial legal criticism looks at the repercussions of colonialism and imperialism today. In this context, law is seen as a social and cultural construct which changes over time. During the period of colonialization by European states, national and international law developed in a way that made it possible to legitimize for example slavery and genocide. European law, with its often racist elements, spread to many parts of the world in the course of colonialization.

Postcolonial theoreticians show how imperial laws served to cover up colonial violence and how injustice was legitimized through the fig leaf of law. The law was used, for example, to deny indigenous populations in the colonies their status as legal persons. The development of international law was also closely interwoven with colonialization. Postcolonial legal criticism today tries to uncover and challenge colonial continuities in both national and international law.


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