Beyond the (Post)Colonial: TWAIL and the Everyday Life of International Law
Journal of Law and Politics in Africa, Asia and Latin America - Verfassung und Recht in Übersee (VRÜ), Vol. 45(2), 2012, pp. 195-221
32 Pages Posted: 4 Apr 2012 Last revised: 19 Aug 2012
Date Written: April 4, 2012
Third World Approaches to International Law, or ‘TWAIL’, is a response to both the colonial and postcolonial ethos of international law. It is also one of the most explicitly articulated juridical and political spaces in which to think about an international law beyond its (post)coloniality. In this article, we describe TWAIL as having a characteristic ‘double engagement’ with the attitudes of both reform and resistance vis-à-vis international law and scholarship. This double engagement has the potential to provide us with the tools both to delineate the (post)colonial character of international law, and to work actively toward a meaningfully plural international normative order. This latter possibility arises from a nascent conceptualisation within TWAIL scholarship of a universality that is compatible with an understanding of international law as an agonistic (and not imperial) project. To make good the tantalising potential of this ‘new’ universal, we suggest an explicit methodological move for TWAIL and its fellow travelers. Such a move involves paying attention to international law as a ‘material project’. By being attentive to the daily operation of international law on the mundane or ‘material’ plane of everyday life, it may be possible to generate a ‘praxis’ of (the new) universality. Such a praxis would trouble the way places and subjects are currently constituted in the name of the international and its (post)colonial ethos. Crucially, it would make intelligible to international legal scholarship the numerous forms of resistance already at play in the struggle against the (post)colonial normative order now being institutionalised and administered across the world.
Keywords: Postcolonialism, Postcolonial, Third World Approaches to International Law, TWAIL, International Law, Universality, Materiality, Resistance, Reform, Method, Ethnography, Agonic International Law, Praxis of Universality, Political International Lawyer
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