UCL Faculty of Laws


Race and Empire: Legal Theory Within, Through and Across National Borders

22 November 2021, 3:00 pm–4:00 pm

decolonising law

Prof. E. Tendayi Achiume and Prof. Aslı Bâli (University of California, Los Angeles)

Event Information

Open to



UCL Laws Events

Race and Empire: Legal Theory Within, Through and Across National Borders
Prof. E. Tendayi Achiume and Prof. Aslı Bâli (University of California, Los Angeles)


About this talk

There is renewed momentum among Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL) scholars to engage Critical Race Theory (CRT) scholars in collaboration aimed at deeper understanding of transnational racial subordination and injustice. Our presentation will briefly outline the ways in which TWAIL and CRT have advanced scholarly engagement with race and empire in the study of international law. We will also offer a concrete example of the insights to be gained from TWAIL-CRT analysis through a brief consideration of the Libyan case, where humanitarian intervention, counter-terrorism, and migration control regimes in international law cannot be fully assessed absent engagement with empire and race. Mainstream and official analysis casts the international system and its hegemonic actors in the role of humanitarian responders to a Libyan crisis not of their making. Instead, we draw attention to the ways in which the racial framing of Libya—and its subordination to imperial prerogatives—proved critical to international governance regimes for managing the country—and the bodies and territory within it—from 2011 to the present.

About the speakers

E. Tendayi Achiume is Alicia Miñana Chair in Law at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law, and a research associate of the African Center for Migration and Society at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa. She is also the UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, and is the first woman to serve in this role since its creation in 1994. The current focus of her scholarship is the global governance of racism and xenophobia; and the legal and ethical implications of colonialism for contemporary international migration. More generally, her research and teaching interests lie in international human rights law, international refugee law, international migration, and property. In 2016, she co-chaired the Annual Meeting of the American Society of International Law. She is also a recipient of the UCLA Distinguished Teaching Award—the highest university-wide honor for excellence in teaching. Her publications include: Racial Borders, Georgetown Law Journal (forthcoming); Migration as Decolonization, Stanford Law Review; Governing Xenophobia, Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law; Syria, Cost-Sharing and the Responsibility to Protect Refugees, Minnesota Law Review; and Beyond Prejudice: Structural Xenophobic Discrimination Against Refugees, Georgetown Journal of International Law.

Aslı Bâli is Professor of Law at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law and is currently serving as the Samuel Rubin Visiting Professor of Law at the Columbia Law School. Bâli previously served as the founding director of the Promise Institute of Human Rights and Director of the UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies. She is currently co-chair of the Advisory Committee of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East Division, Chair of the Middle East Studies Association Global Academy and a Non-Resident Fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Her principal scholarly interests lie in the areas of public international law—including international human rights law and the law of the international security order—and comparative constitutional law, with a focus on the Middle East. Bâli’s recent scholarship has appeared in the International Journal of Constitutional Law, University of Chicago Law Review, UCLA Law Review, Yale Journal of International Law, Cornell Journal of International Law, Vanderbilt Transnational Law Journal, the Virginia Journal of International Law, and the American Journal of International Law Unbound. She is co-editor of the forthcoming volume From Revolution to Devolution: Decentralization and Self-Determination in the Contemporary Middle East (Cambridge).

Book your place

Other events in this series