Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

3 - Rights from the Left: Decolonization, Diaporas and the Global History of Rebellious Lawyering

Friday, July 6
10:20 AM - 11:50 AM
Location: Kadamba, Lower Ground Floor

In 1952, British attempts to quietly prosecute Jomo Kenyatta and his colleagues for leading the Mau Mau fell apart with the unexpected arrival of an international legal defence team consisting of British and Irish barristers; lawyers sent by Ghana, India, and Nigeria, a Jamaican  from Tanzania and three Kenyan counsel of Indian descent (a Hindu, a Sikh and a Catholic). This project establishes that the transnational character of the trial was typical of its time, uncovering a hitherto ignored period of legal globalization, by showing how trials conventionally understood as “national events” in Kenya, Tanzania, India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Guyana, and Singapore were produced by an internationalist culture of civil liberties emerging from decolonization. Following Kenyatta’s lawyers as they move across jurisdictions defending unpopular causes and across time as they cope with the new postcolonial authoritarianism, this project offers an alternate international history of rights emerging from Asia and Africa that moves away from discussions between states and instead explores the chequered history of the concepts among social movements and the claims they make of their states. Focusing on legal practice reveals how the engagement with these trials was formative for a generation of lawyers who would go onto pioneer new forms of progressive lawyering.  This project maps a shared legal culture that allows lawyers to move and legal spectacles to be consumed, that is rooted in the British Indian law codes, circulating precedents and textbooks and operationalized by lawyers from the Indian, Chinese and Caribbean diasporas. 

Rohit De

Yale University, United States

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3 - Rights from the Left: Decolonization, Diaporas and the Global History of Rebellious Lawyering



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