Decolonisation, Anti-Racism, and Legal Pedagogy: Strategies, Successes, and Challenges

by Professor Foluke Adebisi, University of Bristol Law School

In 2021, I, Suhraiya Jivraj and Ntina Tzouvala undertook a project to curate pedagogical perspectives on teaching legacies of empire in law schools across different continents. The result was an edited collection with a specific focus on post- and decolonial thought as well as on anti-racist methods in pedagogy. Decolonisation, Anti-Racism, and Legal Pedagogy: Strategies, Successes, and Challenges. Taylor & Francis, 2023.

With contributions from diverse jurisdictions, including India, South Africa, Australia, and Canada, the volume aims to critically examine the ways that decolonisation and anti-racism can be innovated in legal pedagogy. We hoped to demonstrate how teaching can be modified and adapted to address long-standing colonial and racial injustice in the curriculum. For more on our initial vision for the volume, see the original call for papers.

It is evident that to talk about “decolonisation” in relation to the law school is to enter a perilous terrain. Few terms have gained prominence so fast, while triggering seemingly never-ending debates about their meaning, agents, goals, and preconditions. The demand to build broad alliances that will facilitate change has to be balanced against theoretical and political clarity and a dedication to the radical origins and aims of decolonisation as a pedagogical endeavour with broader aspirations for social transformation. Trying to strike this balance in the context of a law school is even more complicated: it requires reflecting on the role of law in society and, in particular, its complicity in the construction of capitalist modernity and its ideological justifications. The collection focuses on unpacking some of these challenges in a bid to reflect on the future of decolonisation and antiracism in the law school.

What we did well and what we could have done better

As editors and contributors we were very pleased to be involved in a conversation that had such international breadth. It would have been great to have more contribution from scholars in what is currently designated the Global South. We did have some. A project like this would have also benefited from more student involvement. There are reasons why we were unable to enrich the collection in these ways. I really don’t want to make excuses for this, even though we tried, so I am just going to leave those observations there. I hope we all can do better on these points, in future projects on decolonisation. The writing process was supported by workshops where contributors shared their work-in-progress. These turned out to be very generative events. We were able to collectively reflect on how we understand the project of decolonisation in our different jurisdictions and within the context of our individual, institutional and national legal pedagogies. The sharing of challenges for this project was a very warm and validating experience. We are hopeful that this collection will contribute to an open and ongoing collective planetary conversation about the continuous project of decolonisation – and our role in it as academics in law.

What is inside the collection


By Penelope Andrews


By Foluke I Adebisi, Suhraiya Jivraj and Ntina Tzouvala

Abolish the Law School: To Decolonise Is Disingenuous

By Phoebe Boateng, Aysha Mazhar, and Sophia Hayat Taha
This chapter calls for the abolition of the colonial law school. It argues that attempts to decolonise the law school are disingenuous, because when “management” purports to decolonise, what occurs is the co-optation, marketisation, and sanitisation of the work, thereby colonising the decolonising process. Draining PoC and Black labour, the parasitic nature of white middle-class leaders re-creates and reproduces the very structures they claim to want to reform.

The Pedagogy of Memory and Forgetfulness: A Critical Review of Selected Aspects of the LLB Curriculum in South Africa

By Ntando Sindane

This chapter rests on a threefold argument: (1) that the #MustFall movement presented a decolonial turn in South Africa’s academy, (2) that although the law academy claims to have embraced the call to decolonise higher education it tends to implement curriculum transformation using tools that are contrary to decolonial aspirations, and (3) that there’s a spectre of constitutional deification and a fetish for constitutionalism, and that this inhibits law teachers from decolonising their teaching methods.

The Recognition of Pasifika Decolonial Pedagogies as Inclusive Practice in Law Schools and Critical Legal Scholarship

By Bridget Fa’amatuainu 

This chapter examines some of the key challenges and successes in critical pedagogical praxis from the active inclusion of Pasifika pedagogies in decolonial legal pedagogy, rarely reflected in the teaching pedagogies adopted across the six law schools of Aotearoa (New Zealand). It argues that there is a need for more decolonial approaches adopted in legal education and the timely recognition of Pasifika epistemologies and Pasifika legal academics in critical legal scholarship, teaching and instruction of the law.

Decolonizing Objective Theory: Race and Coloniality in US Contract Law

By Chaumtoli Huq

This chapter discusses three methods to incorporate a decolonial perspective into contracts. The first method introduces first-year law students to decolonial theory and critical race theory. The second method concretizes this theoretical exploration through a reflection and writing assignment called Praxis Post. The third method highlights the importance of contextualizing and deconstructing contract cases and does so with the popular contract case Raffles v. Wichelhaus (“Peerless ships”) (1864), which is promoted as the case that exemplified the law’s shift from a subjectivist approach to the objective theory. Finally, through contemporary cases, this method shows how explicitly and implicitly Eurocentrism and coloniality are extended in the doctrine to the present day.

Degrees of Coloniality: Rethinking Property Law in (Northern) Ireland

By Amanda Kramer and Alice Panepinto

This chapter reflects on the authors’ efforts towards decolonising their teaching on the “contemporary issues in property law” module, a core module formerly taught on all qualifying law degree programmes at Queen’s University Belfast. As “outsiders” in NI, Kramer and Panepinto have endeavoured to teach in a way that presents law in context, exposes students to the ways in which various colonial power structures operate both historically and contemporarily, and to foster their critical thinking skills.

Teaching Property Critically in Disparate Parts of the Former British Empire

By Cristy Clark, Sarah Keenan, and John Page

This chapter explores what it means to teach property as non-Indigenous Australian legal academics. Using case studies from law schools in the UK and Australia, the chapter critically examines the flawed colonial structures of property and its perpetuation of class, gender, and race inequalities over generations. Through a re-emphasis on curriculum content, a re-evaluation of teaching methods, and a reappraisal of assessment design, this chapter seeks to articulate an optimistic and hopefully empowering reconceptualisation of a decolonised property pedagogy that is fit(ter) for its early 21st-century purpose.

Towards Decolonising the Ordinary Person Test in Legal Education

By Fady Aoun, Louise Boon-Kuo, and Tanya Mitchell

This chapter draws on race-critical education scholarship and literature on Indigenous cultural competence to argue that challenging the apparently race-neutral ‘ordinary person’ test is a useful strategy towards decolonising legal education. The authors share case studies of theory-informed and adaptable classroom activities in teaching the ‘ordinary person’ test in the partial defence of provocation in criminal law and in assessing racist trade mark registrations. These case studies show how it can also produce and mask structural racism.

Reinventing Wrongs: A Subversive, Anti-Racist Pedagogy for Tort

By C. P. McGrath

This chapter argues that the customary model of Tort teaching can be impactfully and engagingly subverted through an anti-racist pedagogy. A range of strategies engaging structural and substantive responses to course design and delivery are considered as means of doing so, conscious of the constraints within any given institution or broader curriculum. The central theme throughout is that, in embracing such an approach, a Tort teacher does not abandon the subject to pure instrumentalism, but rather that an anti-racist pedagogy for Tort empowers learners to reflect on and critically reassess fundamental aspects of Tort itself.

Unmasking Indigenous Invisibility: Reforming and Decolonising the Pedagogy of Terra Nullius

By Asmi Wood

This chapter examines the treatment since the colonisation of the Australian Continent by the British of Indigenous people under Anglo-Australian law. Settler colonialism has largely treated Indigenous people by pretending they were absent from the Continent. When encounters were inevitable, Indigenous people generally were treated as sub-human. Legal pedagogy has been complicit in the poor treatment of Indigenous people, often by creating legal fictions to ‘explain’ the gaps in law that would otherwise be evident. Lawyers and law schools can and should stop being complicit and help to reverse this aspect of colonisation.

Decolonising Civil Procedure: Court Process as Continuing Colonisation and Tool for Indigenous Justice

By Kate Ogg

This chapter highlights how its seemingly dry and apolitical compulsory law course can be used to expose processes of continuing colonisation and explore the role of colonial processes in fights for Indigenous justice. These changes made to the civil procedure curriculum at Australian National University can only be considered ‘decolonial’ in a restricted sense. Continuing on a decolonisation journey requires structural changes to the regulation of law degrees in Australia and a commitment to legal pluralism by way of teaching both colonial and Indigenous forms of dispute resolution on their own terms.

Teaching International Law against Racism and Empire

By Ntina Tzouvala

This chapter offers a brief account of the author’s experience with teaching public international law over the past decade or so. The focus is on having to convene a large, compulsory course in international law for an Australian law school. Making relatively small tweaks (e.g. devoting time to the right to self-determination or to Indigenous peoples as subjects of international law) to the conventional curriculum can trigger expansive debates and cognitive shifts, especially as students are often eager to discuss race and colonialism. Moving away from rules-centrism enables us to place questions of systemic injustice and power at the centre of our pedagogy and to convince even doctrine-orientated students that formalism alone is not sufficient for mastering their subject. Nevertheless, fruitful as these moves may be, they do not amount to a ‘decolonised’ approach to teaching. Rather, a decolonised international (legal) order cannot be brought about by pedagogy and will not be a mere variation of the present one.

Divesting Religion from Rights: Teaching Freedom of Religion through Anti-Racist Pedagogy

By Sahar Ahmed

This chapter considers methods of teaching Freedom of Religion to students in a way that reifies systemic inequalities, connects the law to student’s lived experiences and marginalised identities, and aims to decolonise Human Rights Law around Freedom of Religion through an anti-racist pedagogy. This anti-racist pedagogical approach operates by centring and contextualising systemic racism in the classroom, integrating race and inequality into course content while still ensuring the academic outcomes of the educational governing authorities are met, and by linking the students’ classroom discussions to their wider community.

Pedagogy as Advocacy: The Role of Anti-Racist and Decolonial Pedagogy in Advancing Social Justice

By Gulika Reddy

This chapter grapples with the question: can human rights pedagogy equip students and advocates to adopt an anti-racist, decolonial approach to advocacy to address systemic inequalities?

Inspiring Anti-Racist Lawyers through Clinical Legal Education

By Sumayyah Malna

This chapter argues that clinical legal education provides an ideal forum in which to surface anti-racist legal practice in higher education. Teaching critical race theory should be integral to the clinical legal education curriculum as it allows students the opportunity to analyse law, policies, and practices through an anti-racist and intersectional lens.

Decolonization and Anti-Racism in Criminology: Student Perceptions on Faculty Teaching Practices

By Tamara O’Doherty, Helene Love, and Marsha-Ann Scott

In this chapter, the authors explore the strategies instructors who teach undergraduate legal courses in a criminology department use to meet the challenge of teaching about social inequities as they relate to law and how students were experiencing their instructors’ efforts.

Troubling Law’s Traditional Canon by Teaching Law and Race

By Foluke I Adebisi & Yvette Russell

In this chapter, the authors provide an account of their experience and practice of designing and teaching an optional final-year LLB unit at the University of Bristol Law School called ‘Law and Race’. This unit involved a critical exploration of the ways in which law has impacted upon and caused racial disparities, and how these factors are continuously embedded and reproduced within the operation of law.

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