Seminar: Utopia, Colonialism and International Law

by | 24 Feb 2021

Continuing our seminar series in conjunction with the Warwick Centre for Critical Legal Studies, we are thrilled to have a recording from Aoife O’Donoghue and Ruth Houghton. Please subscribe to our Seminar series here.

‘Utopia, etymologically, is both the no-place (ou-topos) and the good-place (eu-topos). For Thomas More, his no-place was a ‘New Island’, an imaginary location in the “New World”. Yet, More’s no-place is inhabited. More’s utopian construction begins with the displacement of the indigenous communities. From the 17th to 19th century, across much of Western utopian literature, no-places were constructed through its characters’ colonial exploits. Through ideas of “discovery”, the displacement of indigenous communities, the regulation of women’s bodies, the invocation of science and ideas of the “(un)civilised”, these utopian narratives bare striking similarities with the contemporaneous colonial discourses within international law. Intersecting with scholarship that traces the role of utopian literature in colonialism, this podcast outlines our project to explore (1) how White Western patriarchal utopian projects – “canonical” utopian texts – influenced and were influenced by law, the state and international law, (2) what we could learn about international law from utopias that have been overlooked or hidden – “apocryphal” – such as non-White Western utopias, including indigenous and post-colonial utopias.

If you would like to present your contemporary critical legal research as part of this seminar, please submit a short pitch/abstract (max 300 words) via the Critical Legal Thinking submission page.

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