Curriculum Decolonisation and Revisionist Pedagogy of African Customary Law

37 Pages Posted: 25 Nov 2019

See all articles by Anthony Diala

Anthony Diala

University of the Western Cape

Date Written: November 13, 2019


Fees-related protests in South African universities have pushed the decolonisation of the law curriculum to the front burner of academic discourse. As part of the curriculum, African customary law was marginalised in the courts, distorted by policy makers, and largely labelled as unfriendly to women and younger male children in issues of marriage, property, and succession. However, this normative system is shaped by the manner in which people adapt norms with agrarian origins to the socio-economic changes caused by colonial rule. In this historical context, scholars focus more on conflict of laws than on people's adaptation of indigenous norms to socioeconomic changes. So, in what ways should universities handle the pedagogy of African customary law? This article argues that colonialism endowed Africans with a new socio-legal identity, which questions the mainstream conceptualisation of customary law into "official" and "living" versions. Accordingly, the law curriculum should reflect this new identity and acknowledge the self-sustaining legacy of colonialism as a reality check on decolonisation. As the article suggests, re-conceptualising African customary law offers a framework for legal integration, especially in South Africa.

Keywords: academic literacy, student protests, African customary law, pedagogy, curriculum, decolonisation

Suggested Citation

Diala, Anthony, Curriculum Decolonisation and Revisionist Pedagogy of African Customary Law (November 13, 2019). Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal, Vol. 22, 2019, Available at SSRN:

Anthony Diala (Contact Author)

University of the Western Cape ( email )

Private Bag X17 Bellville
Cape Town, Western Cape 7535
South Africa

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