TRAIL-ing TWAIL: Arguments and Blind Spots in Third World Approaches to International Law

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Beginning in the early 1990s, Third World Approaches to International Law scholarship (TWAIL) destabilized the mainstream narrative within international law that its doctrines were constituted by the historic search for order between formally equal state sovereigns. Instead, TWAIL scholars argued that the key constitutive dynamic of the discipline was the colonial experience, which continues to hold powerful sway over the legal architecture of global regulation whereby international law functions to perpetuate inequality and oppression. At the same time, however, TWAIL scholarship regularly posits international law as an emancipatory force that may be mobilized on behalf of former colonized populations and other marginalized social identities. The rise of post-Marxist scholarship, and more generally, the turn to interdisciplinary within the profession in recent years offers an opportunity to analyze this curious paradox and construct alternative modes of analysis for future TWAIL scholarship. In the first section, the paper draws upon a diverse array of TWAIL scholars over the last thirty years to map the argumentative logic within TWAIL literature. In the second section, the paper incorporates debates and insights from complimentary academic disciplines to illuminate some blind spots within TWAIL’s central arguments, and potentially ‘radicalize’ its future possibility of critique against the growing inequality within global governance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)383-414
JournalCanadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2014


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