Why we are teaching Law and Race at the University of Bristol

By Dr Foluke Adebisi, Teaching Fellow (University of Bristol Law School).

‘Education does not change the world. Education changes people. People change the world.’ — Paulo Freire, Brazilian Philosopher and Educator

In the 2018/2019 academic year, Yvette Russell and I will be (for the first time) teaching a unit called Law and Race. It is a very exciting prospect, not least because there are very few law schools in the UK who teach race in any direct or focused way, and much fewer have a unit dedicated to race. This has been an intellectually stimulating enterprise for both of us, and in this article, I would like to explain why we have embarked on it and what we hope to achieve.

The history of the world can be perceived as the history of continuing inequalities. Oftentimes, race functions as the motivation for and justification of oppressive social, cultural, economic and political structures. This is evidenced by colonisation, slavery, and persistent global racial inequalities that cut across gender and class. Law has often been used to create, justify or maintain these demarcations. Notwithstanding this, legal study often ignores the correlation between race and law, as well as the paradox inherent in the use of law to both oppress and liberate. In our unit we aim to examine legal history and the current state of the law in a critical exploration of how legal evolution has impacted upon and caused racial disparities, and how these factors are continuously consciously and unconsciously embedded and reproduced within the operation of law. (more…)

For Africa, the International Community is a Myth

By Dr Foluke Ifejola Ipinyomi, Teaching Associate (University of Bristol Law School).

© Ann Moore
© Ann Moore

This post is based on an article* in which I argue that ignoring African particularity reduces the effectiveness of the international community and almost certainly ensures that international law is never obeyed… except in cases of self-interest.

What is the International Community?

At the sight of any potential cross-border malaise – disease, conflict, terrorism – calls are made to the international community to act. Why do the calls to the international community not go through? Is there a faulty connection? Or have we run out of airtime? The answer is quite simple. We are mostly dialling a wrong number. Depending on who is making the call, calls to ‘the international community’ could be obliquely referring to all states, all humanity, the UN, the US and Europe or states with liberal democracies. This identity crisis almost always results in a lot of buck-passing. As the poem goes ‘Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.’

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