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This is the fifth episode in the new monthly ACES conversation series 'Racism & Law in Europe' with Christopher Gevers. The series aims to offer a space for academic and practise-oriented reflections on how law is implicated in racializing subjects in today’s Europe.

Event details of Mapping the 'White International' through fiction
Date 25 January 2022
Time 16:00 -17:00

The ‘International’ was invented by Jeremy Bentham in 1789. What began as ‘a legal term’ by the end of the 19th century had morphed into an imaginary that ‘evoked an imperial, Eurocentric order of the world’ (Esmeir, 2018). In the 1870s Robert Louis Stevenson drew on this new imaginary in his would-be first novel, an ‘absurd story of a lot of young Cambridge fellows who are going to found a new society’ by colonising the Navigator Islands in the ‘South Seas’; a venture licensed morally, politically and legally ‘[b]ecause it [was] international’ (Stevenson, 1876).

Around the same time, a group of international lawyers – white to a man – were (re)inventing their discipline around a shared, new-found ‘sensibility about matters international’ (Koskenniemi, 2004). Just as this white ‘International’ was fabricated through the collaboration of these white Internationalist novels (and disciplines) with colonial imperialism, so too was it resisted through the ‘freedom dreams’ of the Black Radical Imagination (Kelley, 2002). This paper will criticaly engage the freedom dreams in the novels of Pauline Hopkins, WEB Du Bois, Peter Abrahams and Kojo Laing; which sought to re-story the past, subversively map the White Supremacist present and radically re-imagine the futures of the ‘International’. 

Chris Gevers
Chris Gevers

About the speaker

Professor Christopher Gevers works on Black Internationalism, Third World Approaches to International Law, Critical Race Theory, and Law and Literature. He teaches international law and legal theory in the School of Law, University of KwaZulu-Natal. Since 2015 he has been a faculty member of the Institute for Global Law & Policy at Harvard Law School. His recent publications appear in the Oxford Handbook of International Criminal Law (2020) and the UCLA Law Review (2021). 

About the series

The 2020 Black Lives Matter protests across European cities triggered a wider public discussion on racism and racial discrimination in Europe. Among the issues discussed was that of the role of law in justifying, enabling, or even constituting racialized violence. Yet, despite the ubiquity of the concept of racial discrimination in European laws, as a conceptual category of critical inquiry, race is conspicuously absent in much of the European legal discourse. This is surprising, given the persistence of racist legacies in e.g., labour, immigration, family, and citizenship law.

This monthly conversation series aims to offer a space for academic and practise-oriented reflections on how law is implicated in racializing subjects in today’s Europe, but also discusses law’s potential in responding to racial discrimination and structural racism.

The conversation series will be held online and invites the audience to think along, and engage with our speakers’ methodological and theoretical approaches.