Public Law as Infrastructure of Imperial Governance
Please find the full list of speakers at the bottom of the event page, underneath the conference programme
Notes & Changes
This event will take place at the Sir Joseph Hotung Auditorium, Bonavero Institute of Human Rights.
If you would like to attend, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line - 'Attendance: Public Law as Infrastructure of Imperial Governance'
Many former imperial powers, including the United Kingdom, have forgotten their imperial histories. Although imperialism provided the foundation for modern society, structuring our legal and social frameworks, lawyers, academics, and policy makers are only slowly beginning to acknowledge this influence. Contemporary constitutional law is often understood and taught without reference to this imperial past.
Is this focus on the present justifiable, a recognition that the study of constitutional law and constitutional history are distinct, if related, activities? Or is this a form of wishful amnesia, a failure to engage with a past that continues to shape our constitutional concepts and institutions? This workshop brings together those working on empire and those working on public law, and seeks to bridge the divide between these two disciplines. The workshop will explore how our imperial past continues to shape our current constitution, public law, citizenship, constructions of borders and jurisdiction and constitutional thinking more generally. Scholars of Constitutional, Administrative or Migration Law are invited to reflect on these aspects from the standpoint of their research and beyond. The project aims to inform and shape our research agendas, and, more specifically, will consider the teaching of constitutional law in British universities, both what is covered (and what is silenced) and how it is taught.
- Welcome Note 9.20 - 9.30 AM
- Imperialism and British Constitutional Identity (9.30 AM – 11:30 AM)
Constitutional identity is shaped both by the constitutional form taken by the state and by the interplay between the state and its people. Each of these elements has been affected and shaped in response to British imperial governance and the relations between the metropole and its colonies. The dissolution of empire left new, post-colonial, polities constructed in the form of, or in reaction to, the structures of the old imperial power: these polities took the form of states, and many adopted the Westminster model. This exportation of British constitutional concepts, legal infrastructure and thinking has led to tangible social impacts. Imperialism shaped the governance, law, and legal epistemology in the metropole. In this first block, we aim to set the scene of this workshop with talks introducing various perspectives to the shaping of British constitutional law.
Chair: Signe Larsen
Timothy Endicott (Oxford) – Empire and the British Constitution
Kojo Koram (Birkbeck) – Uncommon Wealth (Britain and the Aftermath of Empire)
Vidya Kumar (SOAS) – A Revolutionary Introduction to UK Public Law: Imperialism, Race and Injustice
- Core Public Law Concepts as Infrastructure of Colonial Power (11:50 AM – 1:20 PM)
Core contemporary public law concepts such as the rule of law, sovereignty, and rights, developed during the period of empire and were shaped by, and used in, the imperial rule. Drawing from the foundational doctrinal distinction between private and public, this block explores the imperial roots of these ideas and considers how imperialism shaped and naturalized their functions. The idea of a divide between the public and the private created a gap between the governing realm and the social world. In each case, the forms and divisions bequeathed by empire have sometimes proved problematic, or even exploitative or harmful – and were perhaps less inevitable than might have seemed from the legal discourse.
Chair: Nicole Stybnarova
Tanzil Chowdhury (QMUL) – Executive Robbery: UK Public Law, ‘Race’ and Primitive Accumulation in the Chagos Archipelago
Michael Lobban (Oxford) – Rule of Law and the Imperial Constitution
Tom Frost (Leicester University) – Emergency Powers in the Empire and the Metropolis
- Borders of the Empire: The Construction of Citizenship (2:30 PM – 4:00 PM)
The modern construction of citizenship seems far removed from the imperial period, but many of the categories and modes of acquisition of citizenship have an imperial lineage. The modern law of citizenship, with its vast array of distinctions and qualifications, may have been shaped by, and, indeed, may carry forwards, the aims of empire. This comes with impacts that traditional public law thinking often disregards, such as structural racial exploitation and accumulation of wealth in the metropole.
Chair: Cathryn Costello
Devyani Prabhat (Bristol University) – The Chaos theory & Racialised Legal Categories of Non/Citizenship
Jo Shaw (Edinburgh University) – Citizenship and Indigenous Peoples After Empire
Zainab Naqvi (Manchester University) – Citizenship Deprivation and the Politics of Belonging in English Law – A Critical Postcolonial Perspective
- Teaching Constitutional and Public Law (4:20 PM – 6:20 PM)
The recognition of the significance, indeed, the continuing significance, of the imperial past for the constitution and the legal constructs operating under the auspices of constitutional law calls for a response. What are the moral implications of our imperial past for our constitutional future? And how should this affect how we teach and study constitutional law?
Chair: Tarunabh Khaitan
Nick Barber (Oxford) – Strengths and Weaknesses of the Current Public Law Curricula in the UK
Ngoc Son Bui (Oxford) – Teaching Asian Constitutionalism
Mosopefoluwa Sarah Akintunde (Oxford, Co-Chair of OX CRAE) – Studying Public Law at Oxford – Legal Curriculum and Racism
Farnush Ghadery (London South Bank University) – Teaching Law Through the Prism of Decolonial Feminism
Suhraiya Jivraj (Kent University) – Decolonization as Practice: Towards an Anti-racist Legal Pedagogy
Dr. Tom Frost - Tom Frost is a Lecturer at the University of Leicester. His current research projects focus on the influence of the British Empire on the modern UK constitution, and the figure of the slave in Western European legal and political philosophy. He has joint-authored (with Colin Murray) a number of publications on the dispossession of the Chagos Islanders, one of which was cited by the UK Supreme Court.
Dr. Zainab Naqvi - Zainab’s research interests focus on legal and judicial responses to minoritised communities in the UK. She was appointed Lecturer in Law at Coventry University and later Senior Lecturer in Law at De Montfort University. She is now Reader in Critical Feminist Legal Studies at Manchester Law School.
Prof. Michael Lobban - Michael Lobban is a Senior Research Fellow at All Souls College. He is the author of Imperial Incarceration: Detention without Trial in the Making of British Colonial Africa (Cambridge 2021) and has written widely on the history of legal thought and legal practice in the common law world. His recent interests include the use of the law of treason in different parts of the British Empire.
Prof. Devyani Prabhat - Professor Devyani Prabhat is a Professor of Law at University of Bristol Law School, UK, with legal practice experience in Constitutional law. She has a LLM and a PhD from New York University and is admitted as an Attorney at Law, New York. She researches and teaches Public Law (Migration, Citizenship, Constitutional Rights) from a socio-legal and comparative perspective. She is the LLM and MSC Programme Director and SWDTP Pathway lead for Socio-legal Studies (ESRC). She is an ESRC research grant holder on British Citizenship with follow up impact funding and related grants. Her main project was on the gaining, holding, and loss of citizenship. She supervises doctoral students in public law, human rights law, and migration law topics. Professor Prabhat has written and edited a number of books. Her monograph Unleashing the Force of Law: Legal Mobilization, National Security, Basic Freedoms ( Palgrave Macmillan) won the Birks Prize for Outstanding Legal Scholarship (Society of Legal Scholars). The book was shortlisted by both the Society of Legal Scholars and the Socio-Legal Studies Association for book prizes. Her book with Policy Press, Britishness, Belonging and Citizenship is available open access at http://www.oapen.org/search?identifier=647390
Professor Prabhat works closely with practioners and civil society actors in a number of countries, for e.g., her book Citizenship in Times of Turmoil? (Elgar) is based on academic-practitioner collaborations. She serves on the Executive Committee of the UK Society of Legal Scholars (re-elected for second term in 2022), the Advisory Board of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, and the editorial board of journals (e.g., Social and Legal Studies, Human Rights Law Quarterly). She served on ESRC and AHRC peer review colleges and as Associate Director of Border Criminologies (Oxford University). Her research is widely profiled in media and she is a popular invited speaker.
Dr Suhraiya Jivraj is Reader in Law & Social Justice at the University of Kent Law School. She is Co-Director of the Centre for Sexuality, Race & Gender Justice, Co-Director of Research and convenes and teaches modules in Public Law and Race, Law & Gender Justice. She was the Co-ordinator of the Decolonizing Sexualities Network (DSN) of scholars and civil society activists working across issues of race, religion, sexuality and gender until 2021. Her publications include the best-selling 2016 open-access collection ‘Decolonizing Sexualities: Transnational Perspectives, Critical Interventions’ (Counterpress, 2016), a co-edited special issue of Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies entitled: 'Decolonial Trajectories: Praxes and Challenges' (2020). Her contribution to decolonial studies also includes knowledge co-production with students of colour including Towards Decolonising the University: A Kaleidoscope for Empowered Action (Counterpress 2020). She is also author of the SLSA funded Towards an Anti-racist Legal Pedagogy: A Resource (2020) available for teachers to download for free. Suhraiya is also co-editor (with Foluke Adebisi and Ntina Tzouvala) of a forthcoming volume on ‘Multi-jurisdictional Praxis Decolonising & Antiracist Legal Pedagogy’ (forthcoming Autumn 2023, Routledge Legal Pedagogy series).
Dr. Farnush Ghadery is a Senior Lecturer in Law at London South Bank University. Her research is situated at the intersection of decolonial feminist theory and international law, with a focus on women’s rights movements in the Global South. Her most recent publications include ‘Beyond international human rights law – music and song in contextualised struggles for gender equality’ and ‘Introduction to Transnational Legal Feminism’, which form part of the special issue on Transnational Legal Feminism, which she co-edited for the Transnational Legal Theory Journal. She is a co-founder of the Feminist TWAIL Network and a member of the editorial board of the Feminist Legal Studies Journal. Farnush is a frequent guest lecturer at institutions such as McGill University in Montreal, King’s College London, and Riara University Nairobi.
Dr. Tanzil Chowdhury is a Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) in Public Law at Queen Mary University of London and the Co-Director for the Centre of Law and Society in a Global Context. Having previously written on war powers, and constitutionalism in the British Overseas Territories, Tanzil’s latest research broadly focusses on Constitutions and accumulation by dispossession.
Dr. Vidya Kumar is a Senior Lecturer in Law at SOAS, University of London and was formerly an Associate Professor of Law at Leicester University. She holds a D.Phil. in law from the University of Oxford as well as degrees in political theory. She is a member of the faculty of the Institute for Global Law and Policy (IGLP) at Harvard University and has held Visiting Research Fellowships at the LSE, at Melbourne Law School’s Institute for International Law and the Humanities (IILAH), the University of Auckland, and Humboldt University in Berlin. Her teaching and research are interdisciplinary in nature, traversing the fields of international law, constitutional law (including global constitutionalism & constitutional law in the Global South), philosophy of law, labour and human rights and legal history. She is currently writing a monograph on the relationship between Revolution, International Law and History, and is editing a collection of essays on Revolution and Public Law.
Jo Shaw has held the Salvesen Chair of European Institutions in the School of Law since January 2005. Since 2018, she has also held a part time visiting position in the New Social Research programme of Tampere University in Finland.
Between 2009-2013, she was Dean of Research of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, leading on research development and REF submission for the College. From 2014-2017 she was Director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities.
Since 2017, she has been working on a set of related projects on citizenship regimes: what they are and how they work. Her work has been supported by a EURIAS Fellowship at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies (2017-2018) and a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship (2018-2020). She is also co-Director of the Global Citizenship Observatory. Her current work builds on research previously funded by the European Research Council and the Nuffield Foundation.
Dr Kojo Koram is a Senior Lecturer in Law at Birkbeck School of Law, University of London. He joined Birkbeck in September 2018. Prior to taking up this role, he was a Lecturer at the School of Law at the University of Essex between 2016-2018.
He was called to the Bar of England and Wales in 2011 and then received his PhD in 2017. In 2018, the Association for the Study of Law, Culture and the Humanities awarded his PhD the Julien Mezey Dissertation Award for the dissertation that most promises to enrich and advance interdisciplinary scholarship at the intersection of law, culture and the humanities.
In 2022, he published his debut book Uncommon Wealth: Britain and the Aftermath of Empire (John Murray 2022) which was nominated for the 2022 Orwell Prize for Political Writing.
Alongside his academic work, Kojo has also written for publications as varied as the Guardian, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Nation, Dissent and the New Statesman.
Ngoc Son Bui is Professor of Asian Laws at the Faculty of Law, University of Oxford, and a Fellow of St Hugh's College, Oxford. He is a graduate of Vietnam National University-Hanoi (LLB; LLM) and The University of Hong Kong (PhD). He was previously an Assistant Professor at The Chinese University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law, and a research fellow at the Centre for Asian Legal Studies of the National University of Singapore Faculty of Law. He has also held visiting research positions at Harvard, Melbourne, and Tsinghua Law Schools.
He works on comparative & constitutional law in Asia with a focus on the socialist and Confucian culture-influenced jurisdictions. He is the author of Constitutional Change in the Contemporary Socialist World (Oxford University Press 2020) and Confucian Constitutionalism in East Asia (Routledge 2016). He is writing a new monograph Legal Reform in the Contemporary Socialist World for Oxford University Press. He is co-editing four volumes on Asian Comparative Constitutional Law for Hart Publishing. He serves in the editorial board of the Asian Journal of Comparative Law and in the advisory board of the Indian Law Review.
Prof. Timothy Endicott works on the doctrine and the theory of United Kingdom constitutional and administrative law. He has written about the constitutional law of India, Canada, and the United States, and about human rights law. He also works in general jurisprudence, with particular interests in legal interpretation and in the relation between adjudication and the law.
Mosopefoluwa (Sarah) Akintunde is a 2nd year Law with European Law student at Magdalen College, Oxford. She has a vested interest in addressing the racialised legacy of Empire in the education system, through which she has represented the student body in several positions such as Magdalen College Racial and Ethnic Minorities Representative, Co-chair of the Student Union Campaign for Racial Awareness and Equality, and National Union of Students Black Liberation Committee Member.
Cathryn Costello is Andrew W Mellon Professor of Refugee and Migration Law, and a fellow of St Antony's College. From 2003-2013, she was Francis Reynolds Fellow and Tutor in EU and Public Law at Worcester College, Oxford, during which time she also completed her DPhil studies on EU asylum and immigration law.
She has taught a range of public and EU law courses on the Oxford undergraduate and postgraduate curriculum. She began her academic career in 1998 as Lecturer in European Law at the Law School, Trinity College Dublin, and from 2000-2003, she was also the Director of the Irish Centre for European Law. She has been a Visiting Professor at the University of San Francisco and a visiting research fellow at NYU School of Law and Melbourne Law School.
Cathryn has published widely on many aspects of EU and human rights law, including asylum and refugee law, immigration, EU Citizenship and third country national family members, family reunification and immigration detention. Publications include The Human Rights of Migrants and Refugees in European Law (Oxford University Press, 2015).
She also researches the intersections of immigration, asylum and labour law. Her work on this theme includes (with Mark Freedland) Migrants at Work: Immigration and Vulnerability in Labour Law (Oxford University Press 2014) and 'Migrants and Forced Labour: A Labour Law Response' in A Bogg, C Costello, A Davies, J Prassl (eds) The Autonomy of Labour Law (Hart Publishing 2014).
Cathryn has undertaken research for UNHCR, the Council of Europe and the European Parliament. She is regularly invited to address diverse audiences, both academic and practical, such as the European Council of Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) and International Association of Refugee Law Judges (IARLJ). She is also a Senior Research Associate of the Refugee Law Initiative of the University of London.
Cathryn welcomes approaches from doctoral candidates with projects in refugee law, EU asylum and migration law, and the labour and human rights of migrants and refugees.
Signe Larsen joined Magdalen College as a Fellow by Examination in Law in 2020. Before that she was a Max Weber Fellow in Law at the European University Institute. She was educated in law, politics and philosophy at the LSE, the New School for Social Research, Bard College Berlin and the University of Copenhagen.
Her research is concerned with the study of constitutions in a theoretical, historical and comparative perspective. In her recent monograph, The Constitutional Theory of the Federation and the European Union (OUP 2021), she engages with the question of the constitutional nature of the European Union. She argues that the general assumption that the EU is unique, or sui generis, because it is neither a state nor an ordinary international organisation, is based on a flawed understanding of both history and constitutional theory. It is flawed in particular because it assumes the state to be the only constitutional form of political modernity. She shows in contrast that the EU is a federation, and that the federation is a political form that has both a long history and a constitutional theory in its own right. It is a separate ‘genus’ in the ‘family’ of political associations, which also includes the two other main political forms of modernity: the empire and the state. In her book, she presents the constitutional theory of the federation and shows that it allows us to make better sense of the EU and its legal and political problems than existing theories.
She is currently pursuing a new research project on empire and public law. By incorporating insights from history and social science on colonialism and imperialism, she aims to develop a public law theory of empire that can provide us with a better understanding of the legacies of imperialism in constitutional law, including its transnational dimensions.
Nick Barber joined the Oxford Law Faculty in 1998 as a Fixed Term Fellow at Brasenose, moving to a tenured Fellowship at Trinity College in 2000. He holds an MA from Oxford and the BCL, and is a non-practicing barrister and member of Middle Temple. In 2013 he was appointed University Lecturer in Constitutional Law and in 2017 he was appointed Professor of Constitutional Law and Theory. In 2012 and 2013 he was a visiting Professor at Renmin University, China. He has lectured extensively on constitutional law and theory in many countries. He has published many papers in these areas, and his book - The Constitutional State – was published in 2011, and has been widely reviewed. His second book, The Principles of Constitutionalism, was published by Oxford University Press in summer 2018. His most recent book, The United Kingdom Constitution: An Introduction was published in the Clarendon Law Series in late 2021. Both The American Journal of Jurisprudence and The Jerusalem Review of Legal Studies have published collections of essays on his work.
He was founder editor of the United Kingdom Constitutional Law Blog, and he was a co-author, with Jeff King and Tom Hickman, of the blog post that sparked the litigation in Miller, a post which first advanced the arguments eventually adopted by the High Court and Supreme Court.
Alongside Richard Ekins, he is co-director of The Programme for the Foundations of Law and Constitutional Government.
He is currently Associate Dean (Research).
Nicole Stybnarova is a Departmental Lecturer in Human Rights, Refugee Law and International Public Law at the Refugee Studies Centre. She is simultaneously affiliated at Erik Castrén Institute of International Law and Human Rights (Law Faculty), University of Helsinki, as a Doctoral Researcher since 2018. She holds an MPhil (Law) from the University of Oxford and LLM from Charles University in Prague. Her research interests include Migration Law, Private International Law, Human Rights and Critical Social Theory. In her publications she addresses law and international human rights as instruments of power and social stratification, through feminist, Marxist and post-colonial theories.
Her publications can be accessed at: https://researchportal.helsinki.fi/en/persons/nicole-stybnarova
Nicole has been a visiting fellow in University College London (2021), Copenhagen Business School (2021), Max Planck Institute of Social Anthropology (2019), University of Copenhagen (2019); and is planning research visits at Max Planck Institute of Comparative and Private International Law (2023), Queen Mary University London (2023) and Harvard Law School (IGLP) (2024). She has participated in IGLP Global Scholars Academy (2022), SDI 2021 (Sciences-Po) and 2021 Leicester Law School PGR (prize for Most Commendable Paper).
She has taken part in several international research projects: CUREDI (MPI, National Correspondent), NOS-HS funded 'Transnational Childhoods' (Co-convenor), NOS-HS funded CONNOR (Constitutionalism in the Nordics, Co-convenor).
Tarun Khaitan is the Head of Research at the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights at the University of Oxford, the Professor of Public Law and Legal Theory at the Faculty of Law at Oxford, a Fellow at Mansfield College, and an Honorary Professorial Fellow at Melbourne Law School. He specialises in legal theory, constitutional studies, and discrimination law. He is the founding General Editor of the Indian Law Review and founder & advisor of the Junior Faculty Forum for Indian Law Teachers. He sits on the advisory board of the International Journal of Comparative Law, is a member of the European University Institute's Research Council, and is a trustee of the Equal Rights Trust.
He completed his undergraduate studies (BA LLB Hons) at the National Law School (Bangalore) in 2004 as the 'Best All Round Graduating Student'. He then came to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and completed his postgraduate studies (BCL with distinction, MPhil with distinction, DPhil) at Exeter College. Before joining Bonavero Institute, he was the Penningtons Student (Fellow) in Law at Christ Church and then a Tutorial Fellow in Law (with tenure) at Wadham College. Previously, he has also been the Vice Dean of the Oxford Law Faculty, an Australian Research Council Future Fellow at Melbourne Law School, a Global Visiting Professor of Law at NYU Law School, and the Walter V. Schaefer Visiting Professor of Law at Chicago Law School.
His research has been cited by the Indian Supreme Court (in four separate cases: 1, 2, 3, and 4), the Canadian Supreme Court, the European Court of Human Rights, the Israeli Supreme Court, the Madras High Court (in two separate cases: 1, 2), and the Kerala High Court. His monograph entitled A Theory of Discrimination Law (OUP 2015 hbk, South Asia edition and Oxford Scholarship Online, 2016 pbk) has been reviewed very positively in leading journals, including in Law and Philosophy, where Sophia Moreau said "In this magnificent and wide-ranging book ... Khaitan attempts what very few others have tried." In Ethics, Deborah Hellman said that its 'ambitious scope and the careful argumentation it contains make it one of the best in the field’. In his review in the Modern Law Review, Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen claimed that "Khaitan's account is sophisticated, extensive and among the best normative accounts of discrimination law available." Colm O'Cinneide's review in the Oxford Journal of Legal Studies says that "Khaitan’s quest shows up the inadequacies of previous attempts to track down this Holy Grail, and the path he has laid down will encourage others to follow in his footsteps." The book won the Woodward Medal (with a cash prize of 10,000 Australian dollars) in 2019 for making ‘a significant contribution to knowledge in a field of humanities and social sciences.’ A full list of reviews is available here.
Prof Khaitan was awarded the 2018 Letten Prize, a 2 Million Norwegian Kroner award given biennially to a young researcher under the age of 45 conducting excellent research of great social relevance. He is using a part of the award towards setting up the Indian Equality Law Programme, aimed at capacity-building for early-career scholars. In 2020, he was awarded the Excellence in Engagement award by the University of Melbourne. Prof Pratap Bhanu Mehta said in the context of this award that “No discussion of the rights of minorities in India is now conceivable without engaging with his conceptual and legal arguments”. At Oxford, he received the Oxford Policy Engagement Fellowship Award in 2020 and a special mention by the O2RB Excellence in Impact Award in 2021. He helped draft the Indian Anti-Discrimination and Equality Bill 2017. He writes regularly for newspapers and blogs: links to his columns are available here. His podcast course on Indian constitutionalism (in Hindi), संविधान संवाद, can be downloaded here. He has served on the advisory board of the United Nation’s Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner’s effort to draft ‘A Practical Guide to Developing Comprehensive Anti-Discrimination Legislation’.