Document Type

Graduate Syllabus


Fall 2022



Course Number

DIPL 6360

Course Description

What does race have to do with international law? This course will delve into historical and contemporary debates and discussions about the ways in which ideas about race have contributed to international law and politics - and vice versa. We will begin by asking what these ideas are. What do race or racism mean when it comes to law? We will study the construction of the international order through practices of slavery, colonialism, and settler colonialism. We will discuss each of these as systems of legalized dispossession and subordination. We will think about how they relate to, produced, and grew out of specific ideas about race. We will use them to reflect on the question of the "color line" that sociologist W.E.B. du Bois identified in 1900 as the central problem of the coming century.

If international law and the international order were formed in part in the crucible of these projects of dispossession, what does that mean for law and social justice projects? We'll look at the ways that human rights and international justice grapple with racial discrimination and apartheid and we'll analyze ongoing struggles over reparations for the injustices we studied in the first part of the semester. Are contemporary states and governments responsible legally for what their predecessors did? Are reparations for colonialism a good idea? What about for slavery? In the final part of the semester, we will look to recent developments in both scholarship and advocacy. More and more scholars are turning a critical gaze to their own disciplines, prompting questions about how race has been an invisible and unspoken force in international law and international relations. We'll look at how some scholars are attempting to change and what it means for these fields. Finally, we'll examine Black Lives Matter as a social movement mobilizing many different discourses and ideas, including law and human rights, to fight for equity. We will discuss how technology and social media have played a role in amplifying voices as well as the limitations of these forms of political organizing. We will ask what transnational solidarity means in antiracist political movements and how it has been put into practice in different ways.

Throughout the course, we will endeavor to attend to intersectionality, particularly with regard to gender and class, as a central aspect of struggles against racism. The class is an opportunity to question our own assumptions and preconceptions about international law and politics. These are difficult, weighty issues about which many people remain unresolved. This course is an exercise not only in active learning, legal reasoning, and critical thinking but in respectful dialogue and exchange.