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Call for Papers: International Law, Genocide and Imperialism: The Colonial Origins of Human Rights? 

Conveners: Jose-Manuel Barreto (Goldsmiths College, London), Fernanda Bragato (UNISINOS, Porto Alegre & Prabhakar Singh (National University of Singapore)

Anghie's thesis according to which the 'colonial origins of international law' can be found in the context of the Conquest of America and the works of Francisco de Vitoria led to a re-thinking of international law. This thematic has also attracted the attention of critical legal scholars like Fitzpatrick, Kennedy and Koskenniemi, and of Decolonial thinkers like Dussel and Mignolo. What venues does Anghie's thesis open for re-thinking human rights from a non-eurocentric perspective? What consequences can be drawn for human rights from a Decolonial reading of modern ius gentium and iusnaturalism?

The issue of genocide can provide an insightful perspective on ius gentium and iusnaturalism in early modernity. While Stannard has referred to the Conquest of America as 'centuries of genocide', Todorov claims that 'the Sixteenth century perpetrated the greatest genocide in human history'. On his part, Lindqvist finds in colonial genocide an antecedent for the Holocaust.

The political economy of colonialism can also offer key ideas on the origins of human rights. Marx described the formation of the capitalist economy as a process in which the peasants were separated from the means of production and became wage labourers. Marx also stated that 'the discovery of gold and silver in America... the turning of Africa into a warren for the commercial hunting of black-skins, signalised the rosy dawn of the era of capitalist production'. The first thesis became crucial for the understanding of primitive accumulation, the second has remained marginal. Can the latter help us to understand natural law in the context of colonialism?

In the background of elaborations on Eurocentrism and international law (Mignolo, Koskenniemi), this stream also works as a dialogue between a Third-World standpoint and the European-US perspective. This interdisciplinary stream invites papers on the possibility of constructing an early modern history and theory of human rights by an interpretation of the works of Vitoria, Las Casas, Sepulveda, Suarez and Vieira, and on the basis of the analysis of the questions of genocide and the primitive accumulation of capital in the context of the Conquest of America.

Contacts: Jose-Manuel Barreto, manuel.barreto@gold.ac.uk; Fernanda Bragato, fernanda_bragato@hotmail.com and Prabhakar Singh, Prabhakarsingh.adv@gmail.com

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From International Law Reporter
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