Settler Colonialism at the Bar: an Interdisciplinary Workshop on Law, Race and Colonial History

Event Date: 5 October 2018

Deadline for submission of abstracts: 15 June 2018

Location: Utrecht University, Utrecht, the Netherlands

While the decolonisation of academia and society have become important topics, the significance and potential of such an approach is open to interpretation and often the subject of passionate debate. The Decolonisation Group at Utrecht University, which was created in January 2018, brings together historians, lawyers and postcolonial theorists to explore what can be gained from an interdisciplinary discussion.

This workshop wants to invite scholars from the field of history, law, political science, sociology, economics and Media and Cultural Studies as well as other academics who work on the topics of Settler Colonialism and property law – broadly defined – to join this conversation.

Keynote Speaker: Brenna Bhandar (School of Oriental and African Studies)

In her keynote Dr. Bhandar will discuss how the modern common law of property was forged through colonial encounters. Drawing from her book Colonial Lives of Property: Law, Land and Racial Regimes of Ownership (DUP: 2018), Dr. Bhandar will examine how modern property law contributes to the formation of racial subjects in settler colonies and to the development of racial capitalism. How did the colonial appropriation of indigenous lands depend upon ideologies of European racial superiority? What role was played by legal narratives that equate civilized life with English concepts of property?

This talk will serve as a case study to examine what it means to decolonise the study of a field that has yet to fully confront its affiliations with the history of colonialism, setting the stage for broader and transdisciplinary conversations.

Topic of the Workshop

Caroline Elkins and Susan Pedersen wrote, ‘The age of settler colonialism may be behind us, but its legacies are everywhere to be seen.’ (Settler Colonialism in the Twentieth Century, 2005, p1). This workshop sets out to explore those legacies through a set of different lenses and with the help of a range of academic disciplines.

Historians, lawyers, political scientists and sociologists all explore different dimensions of this topic and have collectively researched a wider range of caste studies and their legacies. In Zimbabwe white farmers see opportunities emerge from Robert Mugabe’s departure. His grab of white-owned property fundamentally influence the course of Zimbabwe’s economy. In Israel, settlers complicate the peace process. The United Nations and its predecessor the League of Nations had to grapple with the legality of colonial rule while the most violent acts of colonial resistance occurred in places with white settler communities such as Algeria, Kenya and Rhodesia. Monuments that celebrate settlers have been raised in places like Namibia and South Africa, defining public spaces. Court cases have been tried on the legality of land development schemes while land is considered one of the key means of production.

Understanding the colonial lives of property therefore requires a multidisciplinary approach whereby the insights of multiple disciplines can be brought to bear.

This workshop will consider a variety of contributions. Topics may include:

· The history of settler colonialism

· Cultural representations of the settler

· The relationship between race and property

· The legality of land grabs

· The international politics of settler colonialism

· Gender and settler mythology

· Capitalism and Colonial Land

The workshop will start with a dinner on the evening of 4 October where the 9 workshop participants will be invited to already informally discuss their work with dr. Bhandar and scholars at Utrecht University. The workshop will take place the next day on 5 October. Phd. students and early career academics who are exploring new areas in history, law, political science and sociology are encouraged to apply.

Contact Info:

Please send an abstract of max. 500 words and a short CV to by 15 June 2018. For more information you can contact Frank Gerits , Stacey Links or Rachel Gillett Contributors will be notified regarding the acceptance of their contribution by 30 June 2018. Invited speakers will be expected to submit a draft paper prior to the event, which will be circulated among all other participants. This is a small scale workshop intended to discuss research projects at different stages. Researchers from all disciplines are warmly invited to apply.

Some bursaries will be available to cover travel expenses for participants from outside of Utrecht, but these are unlikely to be enough to cover all expenses for all participants. We therefore ask participants to make their own travel arrangements and then apply for funding. Priority will be given to PhD candidates and early career scholars who need to travel from afar.

This workshop and the Decolonisation Group are supported by UGlobe, the Utrecht Centre for Global Challenges

Contact Email:

More informationa can be found here