Decolonial Comparative Law Summer School 2023

Decolonial Comparative Law Summer School 2023

  • Start: Jul 4, 2023
  • End: Jul 8, 2023
  • Location: Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law

The law as an academic discipline, political and economic instrument, and technical set of methods, is often denounced as the means used to perpetuate colonial oppression. Decolonial law thus might appear as an oxymoron. However, coloniality is the exploitation and denigration of the global South from their lands, governance systems, knowledge systems and ways of being, living, and expressing. One distinguishes between coloniality/decoloniality and colonialism/decolonization in order to emphasize the epistemic challenges of neo-colonialism. Accordingly, decolonial law is an epistemic alternative to colonial law and neo-colonial law. We propose that decoloniality is a necessarily comparative exercise.  

Conventional comparative law studies a variety of legal traditions/systems, but typically interprets them using a global North epistemology. Some scholars have formulated critical analyses of conventional comparative law. Yet, comparative law's emphasis on similarity/equality--as well as on universal principles that overlook the politics of law or the relevance of context--encourages misreading and mistranslation. Decolonial comparative law can generate a different approach to comparative law that embraces interdisciplinarity in both legal theory and methodology, while reducing the gap between decolonial justice and law.  

Decolonial law builds upon, but is not limited to, law from the global South. South-based legal scholars have Southern worldviews that have entered legal discourse; examples include buen vivir and Ubuntu, as well as precolonial and continuing alternative traditional forms of justice. (See, for example, Sabiiti’s work on African traditional justice mechanisms (ATM), mato’oput in Uganda, gacaca in Rwanda, etc.). Whether decoloniality or indigenous methods are their starting points, scholars implicitly rely on methods of comparison in the formulation of decolonial law, such that decolonial comparative law is relevant for any legal scholar interested in decoloniality.

About the summer school

The Decolonial Comparative Law (DeCoLa) summer school brings together comparative law and decoloniality with a rigorous attention to methods. Summer school participants will learn about:

  • the impact of epistemologies (and ideologies) on the choice and implementation of legal methods;
  • some distinctions between postcolonial, critical legal, Indigenous, and decolonial theories;
  • decolonial methods that can be applied in a variety of settings, both legal and non-legal.

This summer school is a first step towards the third Decolonial Comparative Law Workshop (expected in October 2024) in Brazil on the topic of Decolonial Comparative Property Law. Thinkers, scholars, practitioners, and students interested in the matter are strongly encouraged to participate in this summer school.  

Based on participants' preferences, sessions will run concurrently in English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish. Participants are expected to understand at least two languages passively.




Header image: © Shutterstock, VanHart

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