TWAIL: A Brief History of its Origins, its Decentralized Network, and a Tentative Bibliography
Trade Law and Development, Vol. 3, No. 1, p. 26, 2011
40 Pages Posted: 27 Sep 2011 Last revised: 3 Dec 2011
Date Written: September 26, 2011
This article traces the contemporary origins of Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL) in the late 1990’s. It argues that since then, TWAIL-ers have not sought to produce a single authoritative voice or text. Instead, they have generated vibrant ongoing debate around questions of colonial history, power, identity and difference, and what these mean for international law. TWAIL scholarship has also considered possibilities for egalitarian change in a broad variety of areas in the fields of public international law and international economic law. In doing so, TWAIL-ers have addressed multiple issues related to society, politics, identity and economic - with an underlying commitment to democratic values and concerns in relations within and between the Third World and developed countries.
As a distinctive way of thinking about international law, TWAIL is a historically aware methodology - one that challenges the simplistic visions of an innocent third world and a colonizing and dominating first world. This methodology proceeds from the assumption that is not possible to isolate modern forms of domination such as governmentality, from the continuation of older modes of domination (colonial and precolonial).
This article argues that TWAIL has become an expansive, heterogeneous and polycentric dispersed network and field of study. As a field, TWAIL is being continuously re-invented and shaped by new scholars infusing their passion into its central concerns. These scholars are refashioning and contesting what they take as central TWAIL tenets and inventing their own TWAILS. Thus, TWAIL is a discipline in transition, expansion, definition and internal contestation about the varied agendas of its scholars, all at the same time.
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