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in decolonisation because the price of independence consisted in non-European systems being ultimately and definitely superseded by a public international law shaped almost exclusively by European powers.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.
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- Author or Editor: Jörn Axel Kämmerer x
Jörn Axel Kämmerer
Jörn Axel Kämmerer
Paulina Starski and Jörn Axel Kämmerer
Drawing on the works of Alexandrowicz and Grewe, this article intends to illustrate the relevance of colonialism to the evolution of present, universal international law. The central question addressed is as follows: Do we have to regard the exclusionist international law of the imperial era (culminating in the late 19th century) as an anomaly, or ‘accident’ in international relations and hence the achievement of universal participation half a century later as a ‘return to normalcy’, or was colonialism, alongside the law that governed it, a period of transition from international law as a genuinely European order to the universal order it is today? Alexandrowicz’s and Grewe’s answers to these questions appear to be diametrically opposed. More important than judging who of them is right is understanding why these scholars arrived at such diverging conclusions.