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Raza Saeed, University of Warwick,

With socio-economic inequalities heightened and highlighted during the pandemic, the struggles for racial justice gaining prominence around the world and facing backlash, and the constant trade-offs between economic value and the value of some human lives, show that the continued interrogation of law and its interplay with colonialism and empire remains more relevant than ever.

The ‘Empire, Colonialism and Law’ theme addresses the relationship between law and socio-economic, political and cultural empire(s), with due emphasis on colonial and post-colonial structures. It aims to discuss how the instrumentality of law acts within these totalities to initiate and strengthen the dominant regimes and, significantly, generates a totalising tendency within law itself.

To illustrate, the violent and totalising control by colonial regimes dramatically altered the nature of law and justice (and the state) in the colonies. The particular logics in relation to law and the state so initiated did not end with the ‘decolonisation’ moment; rather, they have continued in the ‘age of Empire’ as well.

The continuation of these logics, that feed into and thrive on inequalities and epistemic differentiations, is not only made apparent during crises such as the current one, but is a perpetual crisis for the marginalised populations. This suggests that while colonialism and empire are taken as specific, disparate historical events, they also represent conceptual categories that are interwoven in history and interconnected at a foundational level.

In this backdrop, this theme approaches the categories of Law, Empire and Colonialism from a variety of different angles: law within empire and empire within law; law within colonialism and colonialism within law; as well as the multiple theoretical and historical links between these categories. Possible areas of discussion could include:

  • Pandemics, lockdowns and their differential impact on marginalised groups

  • Transplantation of law and justice from Metropole to the colony

  • Coloniality and its relation to crises

  • The struggle for racial justice

  • The notion of ‘value’ within colonial logics

  • The nature of sovereignty within colonialism and Empire

  • The legal experiments in (Empire’s) colonies

  • Bordering within colonialism and Empire

  • The encounters between local and hegemonic legal and normative orders

  • Legal histories from the standpoint of the excluded

  • Gender as a terrain for colonial contestation

  • Nature of the state in (pre/post)colonial environment

  • The creation and governance of the colonial/Empire’s subject

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