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Introduction. Imprints of Colonialism in Public International Law: On the Paradoxes of Transition

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The article is an introduction to subsequent articles touching upon the relevance of colonialism to the evolution of public international law. This was the topic of a transdisciplinary research project conducted by German scholars and of an international workshop, with this issue as a yield. Imperial colonialism may be perceived as a period of transition from a parallelism of mostly unconnected ‘trans-communitarian’ systems toward today’s universal international order. A paradox is inherent in decolonisation because the price of independence consisted in non-European systems being ultimately and definitely superseded by a public international law shaped almost exclusively by European powers. This ‘birth defect’ of universality explains many persisting tensions in international legal relations. It is worthwhile to assess whether public international law could draw some inspiration from approaches in the constitutional law of selected states with a colonial heritage in view of mitigating conflicts without, however, compromising the benefits inherent in universality.

Affiliations: 1: Bucerius Law School HamburgGermany


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