Subverting Eurocentric Epistemology: The Value of Nonsense When Designing Counterfactuals
Kevin Heller & Ingo Venzke (Eds) Contingency in International Law: On The Possibility of Different Legal Histories (Oxford University Press, 2021)
18 Pages Posted: 4 Nov 2019 Last revised: 5 May 2021
Date Written: December 9, 2020
TWAIL has a fundamental problem: its scholars don’t quite know how to relate to international law. This problem is constitutive of the theory, born as it was out of disillusionment with the failures of decolonisation and, of course, of international law. As a consequence, we find in TWAIL scholarship the juxtaposition of powerful critiques of international law alongside noisy calls for more international law. TWAIL’s aspirational projects are timid, constrained as they are by TWAIL’s overriding commitment to a legal regime its scholars bemoan. In this chapter, I propose to use counterfactuals to overcome the schizophrenia. I treat counterfactuals as a device that enables methodical explorations of alternative legal imaginaries. Contrary to Venzke, I propose exploring counterfactuals that are neither probable nor sensible within current regime. For TWAIL, counterfactuals have value if they facilitate thinking beyond the rigidity of the status quo. And that’s the point: if TWAIL’s mission is to upend Eurocentric epistemology and practice, we must begin to imagine international law beyond the parameters established by Europe.
Keywords: TWAIL, critical international legal theory, Eurocentricity, decoloniality, imagination
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