Empire, Colonialism and Law

This theme addresses the interplay between law and socio-economic, political and cultural empire(s), with due emphasis on colonial and post-colonial structures. It aims to discuss how the instrumentality of law acts within these totalities to initiate and strengthen the dominant regimes and, significantly, generates a totalising tendency within law itself.

To illustrate, the violent and totalising control by colonial regimes led to the fossilisation of local normative orderings, and dramatically altered the nature of law and justice (and the state) in the colonies. The particular logics in relation to law and the state so initiated did not end with the ‘decolonisation’ moment; rather, they have continued in the ‘age of Empire’ as well. This does not imply that colonialism and Empire should be considered as specific, disparate historical events, but also as conceptual categories that are interwoven in history and interconnected in their logics.

In this backdrop, this theme approaches the categories of Law, Empire and Colonialism from a variety of different angles: law within empire and empire within law; law within colonialism and colonialism within law; as well as the multiple theoretical and historical links between these categories. Possible topics include:​

  • The nature of sovereignty within colonialism and Empire
  • The legal experiments in (Empire’s) colonies
  • Law and the Other/Subaltern
  • Bordering within colonialism and Empire
  • The encounters between local and hegemonic legal and normative orders
  • Legal histories from the standpoint of the excluded
  • Gender, law and colonial
  • Nature of the state in (pre/post)colonial environment
  • The creation and governance of the colonial/Empire’s subject
  • Transplantation of law and justice from Metropole to the colony


Dr Raza Saeed (raza.saeed@warwick.ac.uk)