LCIL Friday Lecture: 'Minorities and the Making of Postcolonial States in International Law' - Dr Mohammad Shahabuddin, University of Birmingham

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Lecture summary: While the Rohingya genocide is one of the worst incidents against minorities in recent times, ethno-nationalism and minority oppression in various forms and intensities are defining features of postcolonial states in general. Whereas most states, including Western liberal democracies, are not completely immune from ethno-nationalism and the minority ‘problem’, question remains, why are postcolonial states more vulnerable to this phenomenon? Also, why do postcolonial states respond to ethnic tensions in the manner in which they do? And, what role does international law play in all these? Minorities and the Making of Postcolonial States in International Law (Cambridge University Press, 2021) analyses the geneses of ethno-nationalism in postcolonial states, and articulates how the postcolonial state operates as an ideology to address the ‘minority problem’. The ideological function of the postcolonial ‘national’, ‘liberal’, and ‘developmental’ state inflicts various forms of marginalisation on minorities but simultaneously justify the oppression in the name of national unity, equality and non-discrimination, and economic development. International law plays a central role in the ideological making of the postcolonial state in relation to postcolonial boundaries, liberal-individualist architecture of rights, and neoliberal economic vision of development. In the process, international law subjugates minority interests and in turn aggravates the problem of ethno-nationalism in postcolonial states. With these arguments, the book thus offers an ideology critique of the postcolonial state and examines the role of international law therein. Dr Mohammad Shahabuddin is a Reader in International Law and Human Rights at Birmingham Law School, University of Birmingham. He is also a Faculty Member for Harvard Law School’s Institute for Global Law and Policy (IGLP). He holds a PhD in international law from SOAS, University of London. Shahab is the author of Ethnicity and International Law: Histories, Politics and Practices (Cambridge University Press, 2016). He has recently been awarded the prestigious Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship (2018-2020) for writing his new monograph – Minorities and the Making of Postcolonial States in International Law (Cambridge University Press, 2021).

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