UCL Faculty of Laws


Online | Invested in Whiteness: The von Pezold Arbitration and the Question of Race in Intl Law

26 January 2022, 10:00 am–11:00 am

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This lecture is part of the International Law Association (British Branch) Lecture Series

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Speaker: Dr Ntina Tzouvala (Australian National University)

Chair: Dr Danae Azaria (University College London)

About the Lecture

This paper asks a deceptively simple question: how does international law deal with the question of race and racism in a nominally post-racial but deeply unequal world? Another way of putting this would be the following: does international law have anything to say about race and racism besides the seemingly unequivocal prohibition of racial discrimination embodied in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination? To answer this question, I will offer a close reading of the von Pezold award, and, in particular, of the investment tribunal's finding that Zimbabwe's land expropriation program in the early 2000s was racially discriminatory against white people. After showing that this finding had important legal consequences in this instance, this paper will demonstrate that three unarticulated assumptions about the temporal, spatial and political character of racism enabled this finding. Importantly, these assumptions are not particular to this award or even to international investment law, but rather they are deeply embedded within international law. However, as this paper hopes to show, the fact that these are commonplace assumptions makes them neither self-evidently correct nor politically or jurisprudentially innocent.

About the Speaker

Ntina Tzouvala is a Senior Lecturer at the College of Law, Australian National University. Her work focuses on the history, theory, and political economy of international law. Before joining the ANU, Ntina was an ARC Laureate Postdoctoral Fellow at Melbourne Law School. Her first monograph, Capitalism as Civilisation: A History of International Law, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2020.


This event will be delivered via Zoom Webinar. Attendee cameras and microphones will be turned off but they will be able to put questions to the panel via the Q&A box. You will receive your zoom joining link 48-hours before the start of the event. Contact the Laws Events team (laws-events@ucl.ac.uk) if you have not receive the link.

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