James Thuo Gathii

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of International Law

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199599752
Published online December 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Law


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This chapter traces the two major trends in thinking about Africa’s engagement with international law from a historical perspective: ‘contributionists’ who emphasize Africa’s contributions to international law, on the one hand; and critical theorists who examine Africa’s subordination in its international relations as a legacy that is traceable to international law, on the other. For authors such as Taslim Elias Olawale, ‘inter-civilizational participation in the process of crafting genuinely universal norms’ has historically involved Africa as a central player. This emphasis on Africa’s participation in the formation of international law amounts to contributionism. Critical theorists, such as Makau Wa Mutua, Siba Grovogui, Kamari Clark, Ibironke Odumosu, and Obiora Okafor, among others, by contrast focus on the manner in which modern international law continues the legacy of colonial disempowerment while providing spaces for resistance and reform.

Keywords: Africa’s international relations; international law; contributionism; colonial disempowerment; critical theorists

Article.  10270 words. 

Subjects: Law ; History of Law ; International Law

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