Resistance and International Law; De-Coloniality and Pluritopic Hermeneutics

13 Pages Posted: 20 Mar 2017

Date Written: September 16, 2016


The purpose of this essay will be to engage with the concept of resistance, and to try to map some of the aspects of its relationship with international law. The question that animates the endeavour is that of the capacity of international law to provide sufficient perspective to give a cognizant account of the phenomenon of resistance. My hypothesis is that international law, stemming from European modernity, suffers from irredeemable methodological and epistemic biases that rely on the pre-eminence of the state form in the discipline. Such biases, I argue, produce exclusionary mechanisms inherent to the structure of the discipline, and create distortions of reality along the modern/colonial divide. These distortions enforce a persistent structure or matrix of coloniality that contributes to the ontological negation of the “damné”, i.e. the dominated Other who is in a position of resistance. This matrix is defined as a threefold interrelating set of dominations, it includes: a coloniality of power, the interrelation of modern forms of direct domination; a coloniality of knowledge, the control of different areas of knowledge production; and a coloniality of Being engendered by the interrelation of the previous two. It creates a situation of resistance that international law, because of its epistemic and methodological biases, cannot rationalize completely because of the resistant’s departure from the schemes of knowledge of modernity in which the discipline is rooted, and his willingness to negotiate power and not only completely negate it. This resistance by the dominated Other, I will suggest, is a counter-normative response to the distortions created by the matrix of coloniality in international law.

Keywords: International law, Resistance, Epistemology, Coloniality, Eurocentrism, Polytopic Hermeneutics

Suggested Citation

Cardinal, Pierre-Alexandre, Resistance and International Law; De-Coloniality and Pluritopic Hermeneutics (September 16, 2016). Available at SSRN:

Pierre-Alexandre Cardinal (Contact Author)

McGill University, Faculty of Law ( email )

Montréal, Quebec

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